Auckland, New Zealand
Ceres Organics has a new purpose-built premises in Auckland’s Mt Wellington which fittingly, for an organically-certified and Eco-Social-certified company embraces the latest in sustainability design.
“It’s a really strong statement of who we are,” says David King, one of Ceres’ founders and directors.
Designed by Williams Architects, the new office (1000m2) and warehouse facility (4500m2) features a rainwater collection system along with low water usage fittings and a solar hot water system. The need for mechanical air conditioning and artificial lighting is minimised with extensive use of natural ventilation and daylight harvesting.
A fully automated building management system (BMS) monitors lighting, CO2 levels, and water and energy usage. There is also a dedicated recycling area to minimise the volume of waste that would potentially end up in landfill. Plants thrive in the open, light-filled office area and a two-storeyed green wall covers one side of the atrium reception area.
Every aspect of the premises has had the sustainability spotlight shone on it, from location (it’s situated close to public transport – a ‘must-have’ for staff) down to the worm farm and boardroom floor, built from recycled rimu.
As David explains, “Everything from the building materials, carpet and installation, to the windows, fittings and even the building positioning has been chosen with minimal environmental impact and optimal energy efficiency in mind.
“While all these building features may sound like corporate jargon, they are in fact the very expression of our eco-friendly culture.”
Time to Move
Ceres started looking for new premises in 2012. The lease on their existing premises was due to expire and the company, which has been growing by more than 20% each year, was “bursting at the seams”.
“We saw it as a good opportunity to ‘walk the walk’ and create a certified green building that reflected our ethos,” says Ceres director David Josephson.
The company did consider buying land and building themselves, but felt it was more prudent to invest capital in growing the business than in bricks and mortar. So they went looking for an existing site they could lease and sculpt to their needs. They found what they wanted – a brown field development with existing services – just down the road at 82 Carbine Road.
“We found this site and convinced the owners to knock down the building for us,” David recaps. “The owners had never heard of Green Star buildings but they embraced it because they realised that’s the way the market is heading.
“The running costs are so much lower than a conventional building; you can reduce your OPEX immediately, which is what tenants and investors will want increasingly in the future.”
He admits that the upfront cost is more expensive (some of this extra cost was borne by the developer, Norak Properties Ltd, but Ceres shouldered a lot of it) but says they expect to recoup some of these costs in two to three years.
Ceres is in Carbine Road for the long haul. They have a 12 year lease on the site, which has an extra 2000m2 they can expand into and space in the office for over 50% more desks.
Experienced in designing both industrial and green buildings, architect Simon Williams “absolutely connected” with the brief and worked closely and seamlessly with Ceres, Norak Properties and the contractor Watts and Hughes. “Simon really got it right from day one,” says David King.
It took only one year to construct the new building which included demolishing the existing building to obtain materials for re-use and recycling. Steel was re-engineered for use in the new building and concrete was ground down and re-used in the driveway.
This is in keeping with the basic requirements for Green Star certification, which assesses the environmental impact of a building’s site selection, design, construction, materials and maintenance.
Ceres is well on the way to becoming the first distribution facility in New Zealand to gain a 5-Star (signifying ‘New Zealand Excellence’) Green Certification. “Perhaps even a 6-Star rating [which signifies ‘World Leadership’],” says David King. Green Star certification is a time-consuming (it will take another 8-12 months for Ceres to be certified) and expensive business but one they felt was worthwhile. “It’s an important statement of who we are.”
And the building isn’t just being held up as an exemplar of sustainable building; it recently won the Industrial Property Award at the Property Council New Zealand Awards, announced in June.
Emphasis on Staff
Ceres employs 80 staff at their Mt Wellington premises (110 in total) and the wellness of employees was a prime consideration during the design of the building. “We wanted to enhance their working environment.” The aim was to create a healthy building as opposed to the sick buildings we so often hear about.
All materials are recycled or low-VOC (volatile organic compound) and meet Green Star standards. And as well as saving money, the fully-automated building management system (BMS) which monitors lighting and CO2 levels, has made a real difference to energy levels, David says, especially at that mid-afternoon ‘slump’ time. The windows automatically open and close when CO2 levels get too high, allowing fresh air to come in and stale air to flow out. In summer, large glass doors on either side of the open-plan office area can be opened, allowing air to flow through; and even though the heating system is rarely used, even on a chilly winter’s day the offices are comfortably warm.
The office space has been set up to encourage staff to “mix, mingle and converse.” Rubbish/recycling bins, informal meeting areas with sofas, and filing cabinets are located away from desks to foster this and the large café-style staff cafeteria is a popular meeting place. “There’s a lot more conversation and collaboration here than in our old premises,” observes David Josephson.
It’s an office space with a striking industrial look. All the cabling etc. is exposed beneath a high roof. “We try to be real,” explains David King. “Why conceal the truth?” Plus, when they expand – which they have done already in their Customer Services area – cables can be easily located and dropped down wherever they’re needed.
In the warehouse, which has abundant natural light, lights are on sensors and only switch on when someone moves down the aisles. In the summer months very little lighting is needed at all. As the result of such things as the BMS, LED lighting in the outdoor canopies of the warehouse (which have a payback period of just two years), rapid-close roller doors and so on, David Josephson estimates that efficiency in the warehouse has increased by 40%.
“In so many respects our new building has met and exceeded our expectations,” he says. “It’s good for our bottom line, for our staff, for our customers and for the environment. And it’s good for the investor as green buildings are the way the market is going.
“Increasingly would-be-tenants will be looking at operating costs and the operating costs in a green building are significantly lower than in a conventional building.”
“We haven’t had any second thoughts or regrets on any level,” agrees David King. “We’re all very proud of it.”
Read more about Ceres at www.ceres.co.nz