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Living Certified - Te Kura Whare
19 May 2017

First and foremost, Te Kura Whare belongs to the people of Tūhoe. It is a symbol of their story, a representation of their origin as an iwi; their past, their present and their future. The building provides a central point of connection for Tūhoe, located within their turangawaewae. Te Kura Whare was put together by members of the iwi. As such, a slogan used during the completion stage was “The house that we built”.

Te Kura Whare is strategically located at the entrance to the township of Tāneatua, emphasizing the message that you are now within the rohe of Tūhoe. As Te Kura Whare belongs to the people of Tūhoe, there is an automatic association and attraction for iwi members. It provides a source of pride for those whanau living outside of the iwi rohe, another source of motivation to help them move forward in their lives while living away from their turangawaewae.

Te Kura Whare has evoked a new spirit of place with the transformation of the space from agricultural pasture to its current use. It serves as a motivational basis for long-term stewardship and responsibility for the environment and land use practices. This structure gives rise to a new energy and will sustain a human culture and ecology over time; bringing people back to positively connect with their land and environment. The sustainability values and practices connected with the Te Kura Whare will provide a platform for imbedding into community aspirations and initiatives associated with cultural, social, health and economic prosperity. It can act as a mechanism of momentum for sustainability, working for the needs of the future generations.

The establishment of Te Kura Whare affirms Te Mana Motuhake of Tūhoe over the lands of their tīpuna (ancestors), creating a place of support for the tribal advancement under the umbrella of Tūhoe Te Uru Taumatua.


Certification Status Living Certified
Version of LBC 2.1
Location Tūhoe, Tāneatua, New Zealand
Typology Building
Occupancy Type Cultural, Administrative
Project Area 5,807 SF
Start of Occupancy December 2014
Owner Occupied Yes
Number of Occupants 50


Owner Tūhoe Te Uru Taumatua
Project Manager Arrow International
Contractor Arrow International
Architect Jasmax
Landscape Te Uru Taumatua, Jasmax
Geotechnical Beca
Civil Beca
Structural MLB Consultants
Services Engineer Beca
Specialty Consultants and Rolse Tricia Love Consultants, Pure by Plants, Alphatron

01. Limits to Growth Imperative

Site condition prior to project start:
The site is located on a greenfield, bounded on three sides by farmland and Tāneatua Township on the other. The site is situated directly on a major fault line and alluvial flood plains.

Significant site information:
Towards the Northern boundary nestled amongst several mature chestnut trees was a small 2-bedroom house. During construction, this house was used as the site office before being sold and relocated.

Under Bay of Plenty District Plan, the existing site was zoned as Rural Farmland. A zone change was required as part of the resource consent application. The new zoning, Cultural Civic, allowed for the construction of the new building and approval for cultural events Te Uru Taumatua host.

02. Urban Agriculture Imperative

Te Kura Whare integrates a range of opportunities for agriculture appropriate to its scale, density, climate, culture and context. Te Uru Taumatua are committed to a long term landscape planting strategy that comprises of a combination of native trees, fruit trees, bee friendly plant species and edible gardens.

Tūhoe have a long history of relying on the native forest ecology for the production of medicine (rongoa), food (kai) and fibre (weu). In addition to Tūhoe having access to acres of native forest ecology in the near vicinity, Te Uru Taumatua representatives have selected several native species that are endangered, uncommon or from further afield within New Zealand.

The planting selections will be invaluable for educational purposes, to teach new generations about traditional plant uses, management and sustainable vegetation harvesting.

03. Habitat Exchange Imperative

Tūhoe are guardians and kaitiaki of Te Urewera, a vast and wild 200,000+ hectares of forest, lakes and mountains filled with biodiversity and flourishing ecosystems. The Tūhoe Settlement Act reflects that Te Urewera is not an entity to be legally owned, but a living being that is now in an acknowledged healthy relationship with Tūhoe and their visitors such that Tūhoe can care for and help regenerate life within Te Urewera. To this end, the role, commitments and responsibilities that Tūhoe have in this relationship with Te Urewera implies that Tūhoe already meet the spirit and realities of this Imperative and supersedes the need to purchase other ecological offsets.

04. Car Free Living Imperative

The relative distance of Te Kura Whare from its Tūhoe people and visitors makes car-free travel less practical. This is compounded by the condition of local roads not being conducive to cycling, as well as a general sense that cycling is currently perceived as a sport-related activity.

Residents of the Tāneatua Township are all within walking distance of Te Kura Whare and are able to walk or bike to any activities or events held on site. However, the majority of people visiting Te Kura Whare travel from outside the local township via car, van and bus.

Public transport service within the Bay of Plenty region is not well established. There is no bus or public train service through the township of Tāneatua, and therefore that option does not currently exist as a means of transport for people to Te Kura Whare.

Te Uru Taumatua purchased a fleet of 4 hybrid vehicles as an initial approach to a more sustainable option around its staff transport needs.

05. Net Zero Water Imperative

Rainwater Collection:

  • 100% of project water is collected and discharged on site
  • Maximum rainwater roof catchment (design calculation): 123,000 litres per month
  • Water storage tanks: 2 x 25,000 litres
  • Municipal Water Connection: None

Potable Water:

  • Filtered and UV-treated water supplies café, kitchen, bathrooms and external taps
  • Design estimated total water use per month: 40,000 litres

Fire Protection tanks:

  • Dedicated fire sprinkler and fire storage tank: 1 x 125,000 litres

Botanical Wastewater Treatment System

  • Black water is naturally filtered via a botanical wastewater treatment system and is discharged on site
  • Black water treated per day (design calculation): 5,000 litres

Storm Water:

  • Storm water from surface runoff drains to onsite storage pond
  • Storage pond capacity sized for 100-year flood
  • Storage pond volume 3000 m3

Design calculations by Beca & Pure by Plants

Tūhoe have significant cultural connections to water, laying claim to Lake Waikaremoana, the third largest lake on the North Island of New Zealand. Legend has it that the lake was created by the taniwha Haumapuhia in her attempts to escape to the ocean before day’s break, only to be caught and transformed into stone by the rising sun.

At Te Kura Whare, all water required for the building is supplied from the rainwater collection system. The piping system collects rainwater from the building roof and stores it in the external underground concrete tanks. The system includes a ‘First Flush System’ where initial rain downfall is diverted around the storage tank, as this water is likely to contain sediment from the roof. Once the system is ‘flushed’, the valve to the rainwater drain shuts off and diverts the water to the storage tanks.

Water from the storage tank is treated in a three-stage process. First, the water is filtered through a 20-micron cartridge filter, where most of dirt and sediment is removed. Then, a second stage 1-micron filter further reduces sediment. Finally, a UV system disinfects the water before it is distributed around the building.

To minimize water use and water storage, fixtures with high WELS (Water Efficient Labelling Standard) ratings have been selected. In particular, water fixtures within the commercial kitchen have been selected for very high water efficiency.

Water usage and collection calculations were determined using historical weather data.

06. Ecological Water Flow Imperative

Botanical Wastewater Treatment System

Wastewater is directed to a septic tank, where solids are allowed to settle. Effluent then flows to a second septic tank with a shredder. The effluent is then pumped up to the first stage sedimentation bed. Stage one, sedimentation, is the first step in the purification process where suspended solid materials are separated from the effluent and broken down. Water then passes through stage two, purification beds, where selected plants extract further impurities, resulting in clean, usable water.

Although the water, once it has passed through the system, is suitable for drinking, for cultural reasons Tūhoe have chosen not to use the water for palatable irrigation. Excess water is, therefore, drained into a dispersal field located towards the southern boundary.

Storm Water

During the early stages of design, Te Uru Taumatua raised concerns with regard to an area onsite that was susceptible to ponding. After much debate, an opportunity arose where rather than providing extensive infrastructure to drain the water, the area would be landscaped into an onsite storage pond capable of retaining in excess of 3000 m3 of water. At the peak of winter, surface water fills the pond to capacity. As the rains fade, the water disperses into the water table via built soak pits, unveiling a lush, undulating landscape.

07. Net Zero Energy Imperative

Photovoltaic Panels

Panel Location Tribal Roof Office Roof Carport Roof Totals
Number of Panels 168 120 64 352
Watts per Panel 250W 250W 250W -
Tilt 18°, N 11°, N 25°, N -
kWp 42 kW 30 kW 16 kW 88 kW
Estimated Yeild       125 MWh/yr

Passive Solar Design

The approach to net zero energy at Te Kura Whare began with getting the orientation, facade and mass of the building working optimally to assist with daylight harvesting, passive ventilation and heating. This resulted in predominantly north-facing glazing with shading to allow direct solar gain during the cooler months and provide shading in the warmer months. Low-e, argon filled, thermally broken double glazing minimizes heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer. The roof and walls of the building are all very well insulated. The building structure is predominantly wood, so the addition of mud brick walls and concrete toppings helps to provide mass where it can be most effective in assisting with the passive design of the building.

Photovoltaic Panels

All of Te Kura Whare electricity is produced on site via photovoltaic panels. A battery bank stores the electricity during the day in order to provide capacity for night and emergency consumption. The panels are positioned atop all north-facing roof structures. Te Uru Taumatua’s ambition to remain totally off-grid has been compromised slightly due to inefficiencies in battery storage. The project is, therefore, connected to the grid. However, over the course of the year, Te Kura Whare produces a net positive supply of electricity that is sold back to the national grid.


The building is naturally ventilated and remains comfortable under most conditions in summer without the need for mechanical systems. In winter, the building requires a limited amount of heating, which is provided by energy-efficient split system heat pumps and a heat recovery ventilator. The archive space was designed without windows and will have minimal heat gains and losses. A close control split system process cooler has been selected to maintain room conditions within a relatively broad band of conditions (for this type of space) to minimize the need for intervention.

Hot Water

Water is primarily heated by the solar hot water system with heat pump hot water cylinders maintaining hot water temperatures. The solar hot water system drains down over night to minimize heat loss. For the kitchen only, there is an additional instantaneous gas-fired hot water heater to cater for big events.

The kitchen is the biggest user of electricity. There is a need for the kitchen to function well under heavy demand. In order to accommodate that need and maintain minimal energy consumption, energy efficient equipment was selected.


The design of the building makes use of daylight to provide illumination in daytime conditions. However, there is a need for some artificial lighting during the day and at night. A fully automated office lighting control system is provided with daylight dimming, sensors in meeting rooms and other smaller spaces and after hour sensors in the open plan office. This ensures the lighting usage, and therefore energy usage, is kept to a minimum. All light fixtures are energy efficient.

Security provisions

The security system includes modern, state of the art technology for the access control. 18 CCTV cameras cover all egress points and all doors are controlled by swipe card access. The museum and archive space has restricted swipe card access.

08. Civilized Environment Imperative

Providing operable windows to all spaces proved to be more of a challenge than was expected. Reduced floor plates and internal access routes were required so that occupiable spaces could be located on external walls. Carefully proportioned window panels ensure visual external access, fresh air and adequate day lighting is provided

09. Healthy Air Imperative

Te Kura Whare was tested in six individual categories with only 4 of the categories being necessary for LBC: Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, Respirable Suspended Particulatse and Total Volatile Organic Compounds.

10. Biophilia Imperative

Ko Te Urewera ko au, ko au ko Te Urewera,
Te Urewera is I, and I am Te Urewera.

In Te Kura Whare, natural materials represent the special connection Tūhoe has with the land and environment. The natural materials will age with time, revealing the authenticity of the building. An opportunity to Fashion Te Urewera earth and wood into timber and bricks by Tūhoe people provided memorable experiences that will forever tie them to the project.

Te Kura Whare’s use of natural logs as posts, beams and trusses emulates the forest canopy, reflecting the vital role trees have in the wellbeing of Tūhoe people and their relationship with the forests

The giant wooded arch simulates the flight path of Tama-nui-te-ra (sun) across the sky, rising in the east and setting in the west. The rising of the sun can represent the potential to action progress; with each day comes opportunity to fulfill the aspirations of the people.

The building is a collection of different functional programs and cultural uses: administration, café, archive, library, great hall, ātea, cultural, processional, and productive landscape. The co-locations of program and transitional thresholds between are a critical part of the design strategy to allow people to enjoy and use the buildings.

The building has a variety of penetration points for natural lighting, laminating and warming the building in the same way the rays of the sun penetrate the canopy of the forest. The penetration of light invites users to utilise various spaces within the building and stimulates positive emotional senses, which can result in better experiences for occupants.

From the foundation beneath the ground to the ceilings above, Te Kura Whare has a truly Tūhoe, a truly Te Urewera persona.

It took the entire project team to constantly monitor the design, program, and construction to ensure Te Kura Whare was built in accordance with Living Building Challenge Materials requirements. From the very beginning, it was decided that each discipline including Tūhoe, Architect, Contactor, Services and Specialist Trades would allocate a dedicated research specialist to produce a compliant materials list. This took a huge undertaking of time and resources and was easily the most challenging aspect of the project.

The location of Tāneatua within New Zealand, and in turn the remoteness of NZ to the rest of the world, instantly put the project on the back foot. The majority of compliant area for sourcing materials falls upon ocean.

The Te Uru Taumatua solution was simple: Te Kura Whare was to be constructed by Tūhoe, from Tūhoe-owned resources.

11. Red List Imperative

The team found transparent ingredient lists to be the hardest of all documentation to obtain. Manufacturers hold their ingredient lists close and are often not willing to share their product secrets. The team was, again, at a disadvantage as the Declare label was not yet established in New Zealand. However, Te Kura Whare then became the main catalyst for Declare NZ.

Despite this, the build team was able to produce a practically Red List free specification.

Concrete proved to be one of the more challenging items. Innovative solutions in structural engineering enabled timber to span further and support loads that are commonly achieved using concrete and steel, reducing the requirement for concrete in foundation ground beams and steel in connection details.

The use of advocacy letters for Red List and material ingredient lists has increased awareness amongst suppliers, who have in turn offered positive responses for future product formulation.

12. Embodied Carbon Footprint Imperative

With the aim of strengthening local economy and decreasing the carbon footprint through transport, the team sourced materials from as close to the building site as possible. The weight, density and complexity of different products influenced the drive for New Zealand-based, locally-produced products. In many cases, the team was able to find New Zealand-made alternatives to products that have been used for years through habit.

Tuhoe aspirations of growth and development recognise the need to take into account the impacts on the environment and its natural resources and how these can be managed to sustain future generations; in face this is a core value of Tuhoe. This has been demonstrated in the approach Tuhoe took to building Te Kura Whare in alignment with the Living Building Challenge. Te Kura Whare represents a commitment from Tuhoe for a sustainable and enduring existence. This approach will be the basis for the next 3 Tuhoe regional tribal builds, and will eventually be applied to Tuhoe households as well.

Tuhoe understand the LBC approach for offsetting carbon emissions through the purchase of carbon credits but feel it is more appropriate to settle this ‘offset’ contribution in investments that support the Iwi’s long term sustainability and carbon reduction efforts. The embodied carbon footprint figure for Te Kura Whare was calculated at 1,590,119 kg CO2-eq. (or 1,590 tonnes). In November 2016, at the time of calculation, the market valuation of New Zealand carbon credits was $17.00/T, which equates to a total value of $27,032.02.

The payment of this amount could have been made as the simple offset solution. However, Tuhoe believe there is greater overall value through investment of these funds into local, tangible projects and initiatives that continue to promote sustainable practices. The ongoing efforts into relevant projects and initiatives will lead to ongoing environmental and social benefits, which create a change in habits and behaviours of people and communities. Tuhoe wish to continue to raise awareness and innovations around best practise for whanau, namely the use of resources and how they interact with their surroundings/environment. The installation of local solar arrays was used as an alternative offset pathway under I11-E3 Installation of Off-site Renewables

13. Responsible Industry Imperative

Around 50% of pine plantation forests in NZ/Aotearoa are FSC Certified, and it is relatively easy to procure FSC pine for construction. Hardwoods are harder to source, and there is only one FSC hardwood available in NZ from deepest Southland. The NZ Resource Management Act (RMA) and associated Forestry Acts impose onerous and farsighted conservation and management conditions on owners of native forests to ensure the protection and enhancement of the biodiversity of forests in NZ for future generations along with soils protection and management. That said, there are many ‘farm lot’ timbers in small quantities and varied timbers, which are extremely difficult and costly to certify. The Tūhoe project’s biggest challenge was to ensure that the supply ‘chain of custody’ from forest to building for machined structural timber elements and joinery items was watertight for FSC. This project accelerated many workshops and key timber processors to obtain their FSC certification and be part of the solution.

There is no third party certification for the mining industry providing rock and aggregates in NZ. The team dialogued with contractors and suppliers and advocated to the Minerals
and Aggregates Industry Association for creation of these standards.

Above and Beyond

Tuhoe wish to present the ownership and shareholding connection with forestry blocks managed under FSC standards. Tuhoe are shareholders in the central north island (CNI) forests, which comprise approximately 176,000 hectares of exotic plantation. All shares are currently held in trust by the CNI Iwi Holdings Limited, with the having directors from the 8 associated iwi. Timberlands, a forest management company, manages this CNI forest. They currently hold FSC certification (License Code FSC-C004143) and meet all of the necessary requirements of the Well Managed Plantation Certification.

Tuhoe holds a 27% share alongside the respective shares of the other iwi. In addition, Tuhoe have sole ownership of four cultural redress blocks – total 722.24 ha – which are also managed by Timberlands under their FSC status.

A focus on FSC is to help ensure that forests are managed in a way that not only takes care of the animals and plants, but of the workers and communities who rely on these forests and the indigenous people connected to these forests. The certification programme has standards that align to the Forest Stewardship Council’s set of principles and criteria. This provides a framework that guides activities in order to promote positive outcomes for the land, environment and the people. In addition to the requirements of the FSC programme, Tuhoe will also continue to reflect on areas that can be improved in terms of forestry operations and management aspects, which are consistent with Tuhoe values and principles.

14. Appropriate Sourcing Imperative

The native timber for Te Kura Whare was retrieved by searching for dead and downed native trees within the Tūhoe Rohe. Totara, Matai and Rimu from Rūātoki and Ruatāhuna were recovered. Totara clads the building, Matai covers all of the floors and balustrade, and cabinetry and shelving is made with Rimu and Matai. Structural posts and beams are made of pine from Kainaroa forest to which Tūhoe is connected.

The use of earth bricks serves a functional purpose around atmosphere control. The clay was sourced from the various areas of Te Urewera and gives a variation in texture, colour and character. Knowledge that soil from their whenua forms a significant part of Te Kura Whare. The earth brick walls stand testament to the fact that this construction form can be incorporated into modern building projects.

Younger generations can take pride in the knowledge that their whanau and their whenua are part of this significant building kaupapa. The finished products provide a tangible symbol of the connection and relationship that continues a tradition of Tūhoe utilizing resources from their land and environment.

15. Conservation and Reuse Imperative

Te Kura Whare developed a complete material conservation management plan that covered design, construction, operation and end life phases.

Te Kura Whare’s natural material palette, extensive mechanical fixings and limited use of adhesives contribute to significantly reduced material pollution.

Onsite recycling and waste management was undertaken during the construction phase. This required a dedicated waste manager to ensure adherence to appropriate separation processes.

Site overburden was used to shape the storm water pond and noise embankments. Untreated timber was made available to local community. General waste and recycling including card, paper, glass and plastics were taken to local waste recycling services.

Te Kura Whare has an ongoing policy to reduce and recycle waste from every day operations. Recycling bins are evident throughout the building and recycle trucks are notified only when the bins are full. This is to avoid ongoing unnecessary transportation.

16. Human Scale + Humane Places Imperative

There has been a huge amount of awareness of Tūhoe and Te Kura Whare throughout New Zealand as a result of the construction and opening of the building. The fact that it is aligned with Living Building Challenge principles adds to the appeal of the project and also expands the base of people who want to visit and learn more about the building and Tūhoe people.

The Mou Mou Kai Café provides an opportunity for the public to come and enjoy manaakitanga or hospitality of Tūhoe. It offers a unique alternative to other local eating establishments,
offering modern classic cuisine served with a side of culture.

Organised tour guides allow people to get a more detailed learning experience and thus a better understanding of the processes and requirements of this establishment. Te Kura Whare is available to the public with facilities able to cater for meetings both small and conference-sized.

Te Kura Whare has been the location of many historic iwi events. These events have provided platforms of learning, of understanding, of forgiveness, of awareness, of forging new relationships. These events have provided opportunities for Tūhoe to carry out their kawa and tikanga associated with such occasions.

17. Democracy + Social Justice Imperative

Clear signage and an absence of front boundary fencing allow for an inviting impression for people to stop and visit. There is ample parking space for small vehicles, with the ability to cater for camper-vans and buses.

The grounds’ open-plan approach continues within the building where public and work-related space is not restrictively defined. Meeting and conference facilities are not aplenty in the Eastern Bay of Plenty Region, and therefore Te Kura Whare offers to fill that gap with a range of facilities available for public booking. These facilities include meeting rooms (2-6 people), a room (up to 25) and a tribal chamber (up to 500), with the additional support of whites, data projection and internet service.

18.Rights to Nature Imperative

External community space such as the ātea or amphitheatre area provides an interactive space for people to congregate. It provides space for formal occasions associated with Maori traditions, but it is also a place where people can just sit and mingle. People can sit and relax on the building deck or the grass terraces. There are large, mature trees located close together, providing shaded areas on hot summer days and large boundary embankments that shield the sound of traffic on the nearby highway.

19. Beauty + Spirit Imperative

What is Beauty?

To live a life of responsibility, care and contribution for community, family and nature is to live within the presence of beauty. The presence of beauty is evident where gratitude, contribution and responsibility live. As with many building projects, beauty can be expressed in many ways through the physical structures and created landscape features. These are conceived by designers and architects to stimulate the human senses and evoke responses.

Beauty associated with Te Kura Whare is much more than that of a physical or visual nature. Additional to the physical components are the aspects of beauty that are often immeasurable, or intangible, but capable of providing benefits so rewarding to those connected. Beauty is in the incorporation of Tūhoe tikanga in the building process, which ensures a final product that is acceptable. There is a source of beauty associated with this kaupapa that is able to transcend time and generations, therefore connecting past, present and future Tūhoe.

There is beauty in a kaupapa that has dared to create change, to be innovative, to push boundaries, to take chances, to trust, to create relationships, to ignore standards, to set new standards, to create hope, to aspire, to inspire, to unite people, to provoke thoughts and emotions, to create momentum. Beauty is in a legacy created by Tūhoe, for Tūhoe, a contribution to their aspiration of Tūhoe permanency. Beauty is in the journey towards Te Mana Motuhake o Tūhoe.

20. Inspiration + Education Imperative


A complete supervisory software package for Living Building Challenge management collects and organizes data gathered from the facility’s energy, water, waste and security systems. This information is made readily available to the public via a series of interactive touch screen tablets located in the main entrance foyer.


Just as the building marks a new beginning for Tūhoe, the art reflects what it means to be Tūhoe today. Tūhoe artists were asked to produce artworks that capture the hearts and minds of Tūhoe communities and generations. Guided by well-known Tūhoe proverbs, each artist drew on themes of shared identity, Tūhoe symbolism, iconic features of Te Urewera, all merging with a desire to activate a new future wellbeing of Tūhoe people.

The visually arresting artworks have sweeping curves, use recycled materials, feature refracted light and lively color pallets of reds, yellows and greens. The building comes to life in the evening as a rotating colour wheel is beamed onto the two exterior panels to be enjoyed by all passing through Tāneatua. The artwork sings in harmony with the building, and visitors often find it hard to resist reaching out to feel it for themselves. Many observers describe the art as physically beautiful; however, the fact that Tūhoe artists produced these adds a deeper level of beauty. These will provide a source of focus for many generations of Tūhoe and manuhiri, trying to interpret the story or message of each piece. There is beauty in the ability for such works to capture one’s attention and imagination.


Te Kura Whare has provided opportunity for Tūhoe whanau and other community participants to learn new skills and knowledge that they can take away and use to implement their own home-scale projects such as botanical waste water, photovoltaics, earth bricks and selective timber extraction. Names etched into the project’s earth brick walls serve as a reminder of the contribution of ordinary Tūhoe and community members to the building, a hint of a greater story of contribution wanting to be told.

International Living Future Institute


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