NZ’s First Regional Hub Uses Mass Timber to Drive Net Zero

The $100m Wellington based Blue Mountain Campus is home to KiwiRail and MBIE and will drive 75% reductions in upfront and operational carbon.

Tue 05 Sep 23


The first stage of NZ’s inaugural regional hub is now open for business, with the Buddle Building inviting commercial tenants to join KiwiRail and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) in the new 6,000-square-metre development.

The building is part of the NZ $100 million Blue Mountains Campus, developed by Wills Bond & Co and constructed by LT McGuiness – also behind the Tauranga Civic Development, NZ’s largest all-timber building.

In May, the NZ Green Building Council CEO Andrew Eagles awarded the project a 5 Star Green Star Design certification. 

The buildings, designed by Studio Pacific Architecture, all have a 100% seismic rating, are located in a low-risk area for natural hazards, and have achieved a 5-star NABERNZ rating – an essential requirement for NZ Government commercial tenant agreements.

Andrew Eagles, CEO of the NZ Green Building Council, presented the project team with its 5 Star Green Star design certificate. Wood Central understands that the precinct is committed to achieving a Green Star rating across all stages of the development. (Photo Credit: Supplied by Blue Mountain Campus)

Wood Central can report that whilst the first-stage buildings primarily used a steel-based frame, future office buildings will utilise what the developer calls “timber superstructures” as part of stage 3 works.

Formerly the AgResearch centre in Upper Hutt’s Wallaceville, the five-hectare park-style campus has a mix of existing and new commercial buildings delivered over four stages.

Construction on the two mass timber buildings will start later this year, with the latest master plan identifying an open date of 2026 and 2027, respectively.

Master planned by Studio Pacific Architecture, the campus integrates existing heritage buildings, new modern low-rise buildings and landscaped public spaces.

The campus is an essential project for the NZ government, as it pushes to decentralise the public service and meet its net-zero commitments.

In June, NZ PM Chris Hipkins visited the campus, coinciding with the MBIE and KiwiRail moving 250 personnel into the precinct.

The Prime Minister, the former Minister for MBIE, signed off on the move in May 2022, with the than-minister citing its importance in supporting local economies, reducing commuter congestion and creating a more resilient public sector. 

The choice of mass timber – believed to be a mix of cross-laminated and glulam timbers – was a “no-brainer” for the developer.

Wills Bond & Co reports that the timber superstructures will “abate carbon through the substitution of concrete and steel sequester carbon locked in the timber for the life of the building, both of which lead to net-negative carbon emissions.”

Timber Unlimted – NZ’s all-in-one guide for information – suggests that timber construction is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce carbon footprint without off-setting.

Accordingly, mass timber construction and solar are integral to the campus’s future Green Star and NABERSNZ submissions.

“The carbon emissions for each of the campus’ mass timber buildings are 70-95% less than an equivalent steel-framed building,” they said. 

“This is equal to 2,000 return flights from Wellington to Auckland.”

In addition, using low-carbon materials will lead to a 75% reduction in operational carbon, which saves 44 tonnes of carbon – enough energy to power around 44 NZ homes for a year.

The precinct is bordered by an Urban Development precinct that will see 152 townhouses and 700 individual dwellings developed to the south and east of the Blue Mountains Campus.


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