Britomart development director Campbell Williamson has been overseeing progress on The Hotel Britomart, which will be New Zealand’s first 5 Green Star hotel.
The roof is on, and the interior fitout is under way: when it opens later in 2020, The Hotel Britomart will be New Zealand’s first Green Star hotel – not only that, it’ll debut with 5 Green Stars from the NZ Green Building Council to its name, and be run according to the council’s Green Star Performance Tool. The certification process requires intense attention to detail to every part of the design and build process.
According to the certificate on your wall, The Hotel Britomart has officially been awarded a 5 Green Star Design rating.
Campbell Williamson: Yes, it has. It was a nice accolade because we’re the first New Zealand hotel to get a Green Star rating. That’s a pat on the back for everyone, including the New Zealand Green Building Council, because being the first one, there was a lot of working through the interpretation of the documentation for the first time and how it all worked.
What did it take to achieve the 5 Green Star Design rating?
A lot of it is business as usual for Britomart. We’ve spent maybe a couple hundred thousand dollars more, in terms of direct cost, than what might otherwise have been the case, to get us to the 5 Star Green Star rating. The key elements are concrete mixes, glass, insulation, [reducing] plastics in the building, furniture, timbers and veneers, stains, landscaping and wellness within the building such as volume of fresh air, carbon dioxide levels and so on.
Could you explain one or two of those elements in detail to give a clearer idea of what’s involved?
Sure. In concrete, for example, a big factor is in how far the trucks have to travel to get to us. You might be able to get sustainable concrete, mixed and at the best price, but if it comes from the Waikato, 100km away, it’s not going to work. You have to get a supplier closer to the site.
What’s been the biggest challenge of building to Green Star standards?
For us, the big cost is in following through all the documentation and ensuring that it’s right, and not just taking it as read when someone says, “Yeah, it’s all right.” Everything needs to be checked and double-checked and checked again. And it’s important that we get the terminology right because the certifications and labelling are not yet day-to-day business in New Zealand’s construction industry – there are highly technical specifications and nuances that can trip us up.
It’s not so much the direct cost, it’s the management and the research requirements that have been the most challenging. There are products that the industry understands well and that everyone has become used to using without any question that they satisfy the building codes and that they are compatible with all the other components of the building process. But if a new product is substituted in because the usual product is not Green Star compliant, that new product requires thorough research and analysis as do all the other components the proposed Green Star product relates to, to ensure they are all equally compatible. For example, a change away from standard timber stains on our project triggered questions to revisit flame spread, colour selection, adhesion, availability, ease of application, safety, warranties, and so on. On first look, a product might have the attribute we need, but it’s not until we’re really digging into all of the product attributes that we can be certain it is compatible. But we’re nearly there.
So the Design rating comes first, and then the hotel will receive a Build rating, which reflects how closely the Design rating was followed in reality. When will that be signed off?
The design stage was one part of it, but the delivery is another again. That’s where we have to do what we say is going to happen on the drawings. The evidencing of that process might take up to 12 months after completion. Inevitably there will be some elements that we’re debating through that period. But we are all working hard to keep all our paperwork and evidence trails up to date, with people looking over shoulders to provide the support and expertise.
Have there been areas where you’ve learned a valuable lesson for the next project Britomart builds to a Green Star rating?
For The Hotel Britomart, we need to get 60 points to get our 5 Green Star Build rating and we got our Design rating based on 67 or 66. That leeway is important. We’ll get there on the timbers and the finishes, but that could have been one that could have dropped off. As much as we’ve tried to be careful with the waste that comes off the site and we’ve been diligent with the recycling, we weren’t able to evidence it well. The challenge was that New Zealand systems around this area aren’t fit for purpose yet. So we’ve had to let that point go. We don’t feel that we’ve been poor in our waste disposal – we think we did well – but we just couldn’t evidence it. That’s something to learn for next time.