Up on the roof

Up on the roof

The spaces atop commercial buildings hold untapped environmental benefits and potential for monetising. We look skyward to see what’s happening on the roof.

Green gauge

New Zealand is a bit behind the global eight ball when it comes to living roofs on commercial property, although encouraging signs are emerging.

In France, rooftops on new buildings built in commercial zones must either be partially covered in plants or solar panels and numerous other countries are following suit. Green roofs are promoted through a combination of legal frameworks, financial grants and policy incentives with recent research in London confirming that living roofs can benefit the whole life cost of a building.

Living Roofs Aotearoa director, Zoe Cooper says the New Zealand building code now includes requirements for loadings on roofs and council plans are starting to acknowledge green roofs.

“Living roof advantages include air-conditioning and insulation benefits, energy savings, increasing useable/marketable space on building roof tops and protection from ultra violet damage,” says Cooper.

One of Auckland's most sustainably-designed buildings, the NZI Centre in Fanshawe Street, pictured above, boasts a 350m2 living roof and roof top staff area.

Designed by architects Jasmax, the NZI Centre was the first commercial building in New Zealand to receive a 5-Star Green Star rating and in 2015, that rating was increased to 5.5 stars after a 17 percent improvement in energy use.

The low maintenance living roof has a substrate of organic and inorganic matter and is planted with a variety of sedum/ succulents plus exotic ice plant for colour.

Long-term energy efficiency and innovative technology are also core components of Mt Difficulty Winery’s commitment to tread lightly on the environment.

The Central Otago winery is housed in an exposed aggregate pre-cast panel building which is buried back into the hillside with a vegetated living roof covering the entire 900m2 upper footprint to keep heating and cooling costs down.

"The brief was to incorporate local grasses and stonecrop sedum succulents,” says Stormwater360 designer, Greg Yeoman who was commissioned to carry out the design and installation of the living roof.

Yeoman says the living roof is designed for biodiversity, evaporative cooling (using process water), heat retention and aesthetic enhancement of the barrel store roof for the Mt Difficulty Restaurant and tasting rooms above. At the time of completion, the 900m2 living roof was the largest single extensive living roof in New Zealand.

Roof shout

Seven storeys above Wellington city in the heart of the CBD is the Arborist roof top bar (pictured above top) with funky seating options and usually, a waiting list of patrons eager to perch up high. Owner/operator Tracey Lear says visits to roof top bars in Melbourne and other international cities, encouraged her to test the idea in the capital. “Windy Wellington throws weather challenges into the mix, however we’re sheltered from the north westerly which hits waterfront bars on nice days,” says Lear.

“We’ll look to copy New York’s lead and provide heaters, hot water bottles and blankets when it’s cold and will close on rainy days.”

Down an alleyway opposite Auckland’s Sky Tower, a small commercial building is now home to the Glass Goose (pictured above left), a rooftop bar making great use of previously untapped space.

With a glass ceiling over the deck, stylish outdoor furniture, a clear sight line to the Sky Tower and fairy lights, it’s one of the city’s liveliest bars.

Buzzy bee

Auckland design house Designworks recently installed two beehives (pictured above right) with 60,000 honeybees on the rooftops of its heritage building campus in the CBD joining a growing global movement of urban beekeeping.

“Helping save the Auckland bee population coupled with an opportunity for internal and external collaborations and our core principle of ‘working naturally’ led us to partner with beekeeper Angus Willison,” says Designworks’ group head of spatial design, Clark Pritchard.

“He takes care of the bees and while our landlord was initially a little reluctant, after some perseverance on our part and extensive consultation with Auckland Council, he’s since become an advocate for the concept.”

Designworks’ first edition of artfully packaged hand-pressed honey was given as Christmas gifts to friends and clients.

Willison of Over the Hill Hive and Honey says the bees took some time to get established thanks to city noise and vibrations, “but with a clear flight path to inner city Albert Park, they’ve settled in well.”

As part of Novotel Queenstown Lakeside’s multi-layered commitment to sustainable hospitality, the hotel has a number of beehives on its roof in an initiative to help increase the local bee population.

“The honey is available for hotel guests in Elements Restaurant and will be given away as VIP guest gifts,” says the hotel’s general manager, Jim Moore.

Auckland Council’s ‘place activations team’ is currently investigating how rooftops can be utilised in the city by introducing and supporting local bee hives aiming to turn Auckland into the safest city in the world for bees.

Solar system

New Zealand’s largest solar array installation – equivalent in size to 12 tennis courts – can be found on top of the Sylvia Park shopping centre in Mt Wellington, Auckland.

The 3,000m2, 1,134 panel installation on the centre which is owned by NZX-listed Kiwi Property, has exceeded all expectations. The electricity produced has provided almost 20 percent of Sylvia Park’s base building energy needs since the array was installed 14 months ago.

“We’ve reduced the centre's annual carbon emissions by 65 tonnes, and produced over 500,000 kWh of electricity since the array was switched on,” says Jason Happy, Kiwi Property’s national facilities manager (pictured below with Sylvia Park site facilities manager, Garth Dempsey).

“Some of the energy produced from the solar cells goes to Sylvia Park’s on-site free electric car charging stations.”