Weiti Care at Gulf Rise

22 November 2022

Sustainability was front of mind when Metlifecare drew up plans for a dynamic care home at its Gulf Rise retirement village.

Now Weiti Care is the first care facility in Aotearoa to achieve a 6 Green Star Design certification.

Showcasing what sustainability can look like in the context of a high-dependency residential unit, Weiti Care delivers on a range of challenges, from indoor environment quality, wellness and peacefulness to energy outcomes and life cycle impacts.

The cutting-edge building will be seen as a catalyst for change in the retirement sector.

Essentials

Name: Weiti Care

What: three-storey, 2230m2 residential aged care facility comprising of 13 ground floor dementia care suites and 23 rest home and hospital-level care suites (suite size is 23-36m2); the development features a secure memory garden for dementia residents; 25 staff will work at Weiti

Address: Gulf Rise Retirement Village, 89 Symes Drive, Red Beach, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Development of the 5-hectare village began in 2016 and features a range of villas, apartments and amenities. It is scheduled for completion in 2026 (209 independent living units/ 36 care suites)

Special features: the street layout of Gulf Rise retirement village merges with the neighbourhood's existing street network - breaking down the stereotype of a gated, isolated retirement complex

Project Snapshot

Owner: Metlifecare Retirement Villages Ltd

Owner profile: one of Aotearoa's leading providers of retirement communities; a current portfolio of 33 properties nationwide; its 34th village is due to open in 2023; six greenfield sites are earmarked for future development. Established in 1984, Metlifecare is owned by Swedish-based global investment organisation EQT

Architect: Ignite Architects

Main contractor: NZ Strong

Specialist Structural Engineers: Enovate Consultants

Building Services Engineers and GSAP: eCubed Building Workshop

Project timeline: commenced March 2022; estimated completion June 2023; estimated occupancy late 2023

Project certification: 6 Green Star Design & As Built- Design review (achieved June 2022)


Left to right: Metlifecare CEO Earl Gasparich, Head of Delivery Michael Lisowski, NZGBC Senior manager buildings and communities Brad Crowley

  

Metlifecare says its 6 Green Star design certification for Weiti Care is a key moment in its state-of-the-art Gulf Rise retirement village development and a fantastic yardstick for the future.

"We want to be a transformative industry leader in sustainability and a force for positive impact. Reducing our environmental footprint when we build villages is a key part of our sustainability focus," says Metlifecare's Head of Delivery, Michael Lisowski.

"We are thrilled to have received our first 6 Green Star design certification for Weiti Care. The achievement marks a significant milestone for Gulf Rise and sets the benchmark for our future care homes to reach the same world-leading ratings."

Metlifecare has underpinned plans for those future care homes - a pipeline of six 6 Green Star rated high dependency facilities (referred to as the 6X6 project) - with its forward-thinking approach to funding green buildings.

With Weiti Care as its prototype, Metlifecare has aligned its 6X6 project target with a $1.25 billion dollar Sustainability Linked Loan (SLL).

"Metlifecare has completed a refinancing of its bank loan facilities into Sustainability Linked Loan facilities which are tied to three key social and environmental goals. If we achieve the KPI targets, a lower interest rate will apply. One such KPI is building six new aged care facilities within five years - which will achieve 6 Green Star ratings. In short, we're putting our money where our mouth is."

He says Weiti Care is a ground-breaking building driven by a highly-considered and sustainable design approach.

Michael hopes it will exemplify how the retirement sector can, and should build its future aged-care facilities.

“I absolutely love this unique building with the innovation that conceived it and the biophilic design embedded in it. This project was intended to be built smarter, faster, safer, quieter and more efficiently than traditional construction.”

Michael says its smart, cost-effective construction has been propelled by a number of off-site manufacturing initiatives, including:

  • ensuite bathroom pods pre-manufactured to the exact size and fully complete with second fixings
  • cross-laminated timber structural componentry pre-cut off-site and pre-drilled (down to 50 mm)
  • panels of exterior façade/cladding manufactured off-site (then clipped onto the building)
  • pre-built reinforcement cages for concrete foundations

He says these pre-fabricated elements have dramatically driven down the amount of waste on site, reduced on-site activity and labour, and promoted a healthy work environment.

“As important as speed and efficiency, the construction of this project is much quieter than conventional builds, which is important to the quality of life for our residents living several meters away.”

On-site late October 2022: cross-laminated timber structure taking shape

  

Michael says the building’s design has significantly impacted its life cycle assessment (LCA), which demonstrates a reduction against six environmental impact categories compared to a standard-practice reference building.

“Our life cycle assessment shows that going forward, Weiti Care will be highly efficient and highly economical to run. At the same time, it will provide a beautiful environment for our residents,” he says.

Metlifecare says Green Star has been a perfect fit for the Weiti project.

“It started with us thinking about the people who would be living and working in the building. Weiti Care will be the last home for most of the building’s residents; therefore, we felt we should create a facility that maximises comfort with the best air quality, lighting and sound attenuation for those residents and the staff caring for them. The Green Star tool was a natural choice when we set our quality of life and sustainability goals,” says Michael.

Initially, the tool was used as a tickbox exercise for the project’s 6 Green Star goal, but as time went by, he says it became an inspiration for placing a wider lense across sustainability and innovation.

“Green Star provided an opportunity to really explore our design principles in order to address the needs of our aged care residents. It gave us a way of looking inwards and asking ourselves, ‘how can we strive for excellence?’”

GSAP David Fullbrook, founder and senior consultant at eCubed, says Metlifecare is breaking the mould with its approach.

“Targeting the highest standard of sustainability on a multiple care building programme and linking that to a very large sustainability backed loan - a new financial funding instrument - involves challenging and reimagining the status quo. It feels like the future and how we might do things differently,” he says.

David says the key sustainable features of Weiti include:

  • use of CLT cross laminated timber structure and prefabrication
  • thermally efficient building envelope – higher than new code requirements
  • heat recovery ventilation linked to Covid 19 response
  • 50 kW solar PV array

“All these features are linked around the overarching principle in a climate emergency to reduce both embodied and operational carbon,” he says.

A strong advocate of life cycle assessments, David says the quantitative technique (used to calculate the potential environmental impact of a building's material, energy and water consumption over its full 60+ year life cycle) is a new language and skillset to learn.

“We have committed to doing full LCA for all our Green Star projects. A life cycle assessment is like an autobiography of a building. It lets you see the upstream impact of the materials used in a building. We hope LCA will foster a greater reverence by designers for how they select materials and that the widespread use of EPDs (environmental product declarations) will also help designers in their decision-making.”

David says aged care facilities are not a building type that has received much attention, and he hopes the industry will sit up and take notice of the project.

He believes there are fantastic opportunities to build better in the retirement sector and to make a difference in people’s later life.

Designing and building better has been central for Enovate Consultants as part of its response to the Weiti development. Director Dr Michael Newcombe says the project’s 6 Green Star goal greatly influenced its engineering solutions which include:

  • the entire structure maximising engineered timber and cross-laminated timber rather than a more traditional concrete/steel structure. (Engineered timber and CLT sequesters carbon within a building for decades resulting in a low-embodied carbon development)
  • minimising carbon-intensive concrete and steel in the building’s foundations through the use of a lightweight superstructure
  • the structure being designed to be seismically resilient - which minimises waste and/or avoids demolition in the event of a large earthquake and is designed to be readily re-usable/demountable

 

 Michael says there were unique considerations for high dependency and dementia residents.

“ International research has demonstrated that the use of natural materials, and timber in particular, can have a calming effect on occupants - enhancing wellbeing.”

He says the project’s 6 Green Star achievement comes as no surprise given Metlifecare’s leadership in the sustainability and low-embodied carbon space.

“We greatly appreciate its foresight and the opportunities it has provided to design structures we are proud of as we step into a low-carbon future.”

Meanwhile Michael Lisowski of Metlifecare says enhancing the wellbeing and happiness of future residents and staff through sustainability has spearheaded the Weiti Care Home project and its outcomes.

“We have packed so much into this unique building, and one of the most significant benefits of earning a Greenstar rating is that when we lead, we can inspire. I hope to see our peers pushing for Green Star ratings because the more our industry utilises sustainable design - the more we can influence the future.”

In addition to its 6X6 project, Metlifecare is pushing towards 7 Homestar ratings for many of its apartments and villas.

Green features include:
  • excellent indoor air quality (the building is designed to define positive and negative pressure zones to create isolation zones in the event of a viral breakout)
  • mechanical heat recovery ventilation rates well above Building Code
  • responsible construction practices to manage environmental impacts, including an Environmental Management Plan
  • Operational Waste Management Plan (OWMP) meeting best practice criteria
  • electrical water metering and monitoring
  • excellent public transport and reduced car parking spaces
  • localised lighting control providing occupants with the ability to control lighting in their immediate environment
Technical features include:
  • energy consumption reduction of at least 78% compared to a reference building
  • peak electricity demand reduction of 79% compared to a reference building
  • greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 91% compared to a reference building
  • predicted reduction in potable water consumption of approximately 37% compared against a reference building

Weiti Care is the first Green Star project in Aotearoa to achieve up to 8 innovation points. Innovation features include:

  • sustainable financing framework (securing a favourable interest rate for new green construction)
  • financial transparency (costing out every Green Star point/ maximising value/delivering the KPIs the SSL requires)
  • on-site renewable energy
  • integrating healthy homes