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New Zealand's heart of glass

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NZI Centre was first building in New Zealand to get five-star green rating
  • Around 80% of rainwater is captured and reused as gray water
  • Elevator adds power back into the building's energy systems

(CNN) -- It might have a meeting room named after grizzled New Zealand rugby legend Wayne "Buck" Shelford, but the NZI Centre presents a sleeker appearance on the streets of Auckland.

Opened in 2009, it is one of the city's most eye-catching and sustainable buildings utilizing energy efficient technology and was the first building in New Zealand to get a five-star rating from the New Zealand Green Building Council

Situated on a busy junction, the diagonal glazing that wraps the building in a glass envelope has lent it the nickname "The Greenhouse" and allows the open-plan interior to be bathed in natural light.

Between the three layers of glass on the northern side of the building, adjustable shutters are able to cut down on the need for additional heating and cooling.

There are also some more ecologically progressive elements, including an elevator that feeds power back into the building's electricity supply, as it descends through the five floors. Around 80% of the rainwater captured from the green roof, complete with flower beds, is captured and filtered for use as "gray water" in the building's toilets.

The building is home to employees of New Zealand Insurance and, in part to promote a paper-free environment, storage space has been reduced, which also enhances the open-air feel of the interior. Vines were also planted to grow into green living walls between floors.

Given the atrium, noise was a potential issue, but to keep things quiet for those in "Buck Shelford" or any of the other meeting rooms, sound-dampening panels absorb the noise, ensuring the atmosphere is more that of an insurance company than rugby stadium.

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