The Hotel Britomart will be New Zealand's first 5 Green Star hotel when it opens in mid-2020. Development director Campbell Williamson talks to Melinda Williams about how the design and build process is minimising its environmental impact.
Everyone loves to explore, but the sustainability of conventional travel (or lack thereof) has increasingly come under the spotlight. In a major international survey in 2017, booking.com reported that 87percent of travellers want to travel in a more sustainable way, with more than two-thirds (and rising) intending to stay in eco-friendly accommodation for future trips.
Sustainability is one of the key design drivers for The Hotel Britomart. It will be New Zealand’s first 5 Green Star hotel when it opens in mid-2020, and after opening will be monitored through the New Zealand Green Building Council’s Green Star Performance Tool. The nine-block Britomart precinct already operates to the Green Star Performance Tool’s standards, and is at the centre of Auckland’s public transport network. Campbell Williamson is Development Director for Britomart. We talked to him about how sustainability is being built into The Hotel Britomart from the ground up.
MELINDA WILLIAMS Why was it important to Britomart to have a strong commitment to sustainability in The Hotel Britomart?
Sustainability has always been part of the Britomart ethos, from when we first gladly took on the responsibility for preserving and restoring such an important collection of Auckland’s heritage buildings. It’s become a key consideration in everything that we do. And with regard to a hotel, travellers increasingly want to stay where there is a demonstrated commitment to sustainability beyond asking the guests to reuse their towels. Although it’s probably even simpler than that; building sustainably has a much lower immediate and ongoing environmental impact and Earth needs that from us.
How is the construction process being managed to minimise the environmental impact?
At foundation level, environmental impact management involves careful removal and disposal of soils from hydrocarbon contamination over the century of the property use before we started. We’re working right next to a heritage building, which we’re renovating for office space at the same time, and preserving as much as possible. It’s full of beautiful old native timbers and brickwork. During our new construction works we are working very closely with our designers and contractors to use environmentally friendly building materials and construction methodologies to minimise waste to landfill, including detailed management of construction material waste that is sorted for what can be recycled.
What are the key ‘green’ factors that contribute towards a high Green-Star rating for the hotel?
Well, the big factors are the energy use and quality of the indoor environment which are managed through efficient air control systems and energy metering, insulation, double-glazing, building orientation and window placement, LED lighting, low or zero-emission materials for the interiors and so on. Water performance is also important, so we have low-flow water systems. How the building integrates with the existing environment is also a factor, so we are blending it with the existing heritage buildings through the use of a brick exterior, and with the neighbourhood through an open, laneway-style lobby area. Natural landscaping and planting also feature strongly in the design.
Is transport access a factor that’s considered for a Green Star rating?
Yes, it is. Being able to access good public transport is a big part of making travel more sustainable in general. The Hotel Britomart will be right at the heart of Auckland’s public transport network. Besides the train, bus, ferry and ride-share access, we’ll also be providing bikes for guests’ use. As part of that, we’re building in bike storage, which will potentially also be able to be accessed by members of the public as an end-of-trip facility.
How about rooms and facilities? Where’s the sustainability there?
In terms of room size, we’ve taken an ‘everything you need, nothing you don’t’ approach. Sure, the rooms are not large but they are designed to feel spacious and restful, with natural products and colour themes and access that flows easily through a fairly compact footprint. Also, a decision we made early on was to not overdo the dedication of space within the hotel to extensive facilities like in-house restaurants, an oversized lobby, a large gym, and so on. Every facility a guest could want will be right at the front door of the hotel within the Britomart precinct, and our guests will be able to use them in the same way they would expect to use in-house facilities. So if they want to order breakfast in their room from Amano, or do a circuit at Les Mills, or simply enjoy the sunshine in the bean bags on the lawn of Takutai Square, we already have it all. Taking this approach has allowed us to dedicate as much space as possible in the building to rooms, which is a really efficient way of using space.