Building 201: Reuse of University of Auckland building slashes carbon

01 August 2022

One of the best ways our sector can reduce our emissions is to reuse and optimise buildings we already have. The transformation of the University of Auckland’s Building 201 is a shining example of this approach.


Name: University of Auckland – Social Sciences Building also known as Building 201 or B201

What: 24,500 square metre redeveloped academic facility – demonstrating adaptive reuse

History: constructed in stages during the 1970s, officially opened 1979

Where: 10 Symonds Street, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland

Occupants: Faculty of Education and Social Work (EDSW), Faculty of Arts and Creative Arts and Industries (CAI).

Potential capacity: 3000 to 4000 staff and students

Project Snapshot

Owner: University of Auckland

Architect: Jasmax

Main contractor: Hawkins

Building services engineer/structural engineer/civil engineer: BECA


Project status: commenced early 2021, targeted completion early 2024

Project certification: 6 Green Star Design Review Rating


The B201 project was borne from a desire for the University’s estate to set a positive example and be leading the way in terms of sustainability in Aotearoa. The building had been scheduled for a simple refurbishment pending full replacement in ten to fifteen years-time. 

University of Auckland Director of Property Services, Simon Neale, says the University took the decision to turn this unloved and poorly performing building into an example of how adaptive reuse can be transformative and as good, or better, than demolition and replacement.

“The change in approach allowed us to get the project out of the ground quicker by reducing the amount of demolition and through reusing all of the exiting foundations and structural frame. This is a good example of where a sustainable approach is achieving on multiple fronts; improved sustainability outcomes, reducing the embedded carbon, shorter build time, and financial savings.”

With a commitment to adaptive reuse, the University is on track to create a world leading low-carbon space for students and staff.

Constructed in and stamped with the global architectural vocabulary of 1970s academic institutions, Building 201 was outmoded and sat as a concrete-dominated form referencing mid-century brutalism. Over time the building’s infrastructure had become outdated. Despite undergoing a raft of remedial work over the decades it had reached end-of-life status with mechanical and building services no longer fit-for-purpose, poor environmental performance, and a seismically poor deteriorating heavy concrete façade.

University of Auckland associate director of planning and development, Tristram Collett, says there was little to suggest Building 201 had any connection with Tāmaki Makaurau or Aotearoa.

“Its layout was highly segregated, it was difficult to navigate and didn’t acknowledge its prime position on Symonds Street or the University campus behind. It was a big concrete block with the extra challenge of having no obvious front entrance.”

The tired 70s structure is now being transformed into a state-of-the-art educational environment to create a new home for the Faculty of Education and Social Work (EDSW) and Faculty of Arts. The concept is spearheaded by a project team committed to sustainable development, and the University of Auckland’s estate strategy Te Rautaki Tūāpapa 2021-2030 which advocates for innovative green campuses.

The hard work has been rewarded with a world leading 6 Green Star design review, setting a new benchmark for projects in Aotearoa.

“To achieve the highest score awarded since the inception of the New Zealand Green Building Council’s design rating - 93 points - is an awesome achievement and an exciting milestone,” Simon says.

With a strong alignment between the University’s values, Te Rautaki Tūāpapa and Green Star, green-thinking was embedded in Building 201’s refurbishment from the start.

“We wanted to be aspirational and innovative in our approach to B201’s upgrade and set a new benchmark. On reviewing previous uncertified University projects against a Green Star criteria we could see we were already building projects that could potentially meet 5 Green Stars. This time we wanted to aim even higher.”


NZGBC Director of Market Transformation Sam Archer and University of Auckland Director of Property Services Simon Neale

 That early call to target 6 stars resulted in the Green Star tool fundamentally guiding the design.

Jasmax Principal and design lead, Chris Scott, says from the outset all key design decisions aimed to reduce embodied carbon and operational energy use in the revised Building 201.

“By replacing its existing heavy concrete cladding with a high-performance lightweight curtain wall system, we were able to reuse its existing concrete structure which required only minor structural upgrading,” he says.

“To reduce the embodied carbon of the new façade we considered design options with minimal amounts of low carbon materials. The design of the curtain wall system utilised aluminium extrusions sourced in Aotearoa made from 85% recycled content and 60% less carbon emissions than international aluminium. Due to the inherent strength of these lightweight extrusions we could further reduce the quantity of material required.”

Chris says as the design process progressed the team looked for opportunities to minimise the amount of materials.

“For example we’ve eliminated ceilings in many of the public spaces and main circulation routes. All new materials selected for building components such as the timber atrium have been chosen for their performance and ability to lower carbon.”

He cites the project’s most exciting green design aspect as:

  • the sheer scale of the carbon reduction through the adaptive reuse of an existing building which had reached end-of-life
  • the building’s transformation facilitated by its new façade, atrium and building interior (including extra floor area)

“It’s a huge credit to the vision and commitment of the University of Auckland alongside a co-ordinated effort from the whole design team that this project achieved a leading certification and sets a new benchmark for low carbon design in Aotearoa.”



Chris says Building 201 also marks a milestone in Jasmax’s efforts to meet net zero carbon across new buildings by 2030.

It goes without saying that Building 201’s outstanding 6 Green Star score looks set to translate into comfortable, bright, healthy, inviting spaces for staff and students.

“We’re hoping as occupants walk through the doors it will be immediately obvious that they’re in a unique space,” BECA Associate and project GSAP, Timothy Howarth says.

He says Green Star has helped provide the project with a clearly defined target backed up by a sustainability framework, brief and design outcomes.

“I hope the reuse of B201 is inspirational for other projects. There’s no reason why Aotearoa’s existing building stock can’t be brought up to modern standards with the right care and attention. The world only has a limited carbon budget and making better use of our existing buildings and aging building stock is a great way to lighten our footprint,” Timothy says.

He lists Building 201’s green highlights as:

  • its adaptive reuse
  • Electrification and decarbonisation of the building and the district heating network it supported
  • its attractive new façade delivering energy efficiency, thermal comfort and reduced operational carbon emissions
  • an innovative suspended lighting design providing a sense of lighter and brighter spaces
  • the new atrium with its natural ventilation and extensive use of timber in the roof structure
  • the façade’s air tightness testing (a New Zealand first for a building of this size)

Construction firm Hawkins built the original B201 facility in the 1970s and 50 years later is now playing a key role its revival.

Hawkins project manager, Hamish Mowat, says the firm has had a 350 strong team working on site.

“Everyone has been really aware of the importance of Green Star which has encouraged sustainable behaviour on site and increased awareness about recycling.”

“It is great to be part of a project which is pushing boundaries within the industry. Green Star has initiated many challenging conversations with subcontractors about the industry continuing to move in a more sustainable direction.”

The project has included the removal of over 500 concrete panels from the building’s façade prior to the installation of its new lightweight curtain wall.

“It’s exciting to be part of such a sustainable, cutting-edge upgrade.”

Building 201 signposts the University of Auckland’s push for sustainable campuses and is a flagship for its pursuit of green, low carbon, energy-smart buildings.

Timothy Howarth says while the B201 project has comprised a number of unique features “these are easily replicated and we hope to see them take root across other university campuses in Aotearoa.”

Simon Neale says Green Star has delivered clarity around the University’s environmental aspirations and ensured its commitment to sustainability is measurable and visible.

50 years after it was constructed, a readapted, dynamic Building 201 sits boldly on Symonds Street, holding its past and its future and providing a connection not a barrier to the campus beyond.

Green features include:

  • Re-use and upgrade of existing primary reinforced concrete structure
  • Electrification and decarbonisation of the building and the district heating network it supported
  • New façade with optimised window-to-wall ratios, high performance solar glazing, targeted external shading
  • Lighting comfort with extensive use of indirect lighting addresses the perception of colour in the space
  • Internal ambient noise levels suited to activities in rooms of the building
  • Noise transmission between rooms minimised
  • At least 95% of internally applied paints, adhesives and sealants target stipulated VOC limits
  • At least 95% of all engineered wood products meet stipulated formaldehyde limits
  • Excellent access to public transport/project location receives a high walk score (Good access to local amenities such as parks, shops etc.)
  • End of trip facilities to encourage more cycling and walking.
  • Significant reduction in amount of construction waste sent to landfill (TBC)
  • Green roof (native planting) on the podium building
Technical features include:

  • High performance HVAC system combination of chilled beams and variable air volume systems as well as a naturally ventilated central atrium.
  • Elimination of fossil fuel consumption on-site with all electric HVAC, central plant and domestic hot water to be generated through electric reverse cycle air source heat pumps
  • A photovoltaic array providing 10% of the buildings energy
  • Reduced energy use and GHG emissions compared to standard building
  • Predicted water consumption 75% less than standard building - a combination of air source heat rejection, rainwater harvesting and high performance WELS rated sanitary fixtures and fittings
  • Extensive electrical, thermal and water metering to measure and report on the environmental performance of the building
  • Outdoor air provided at a rate 50% greater than current building coded standards