How Auckland Museum's sustainability journey began on the rooftop

by Ken Downie / 23 May, 2019
Photography by Ken Downie
john glen auckland museum solar panel

John Glen on the roof of the Auckland War Memorial Museum; there are 189 solar panels installed on the eastern and western sides of the roof.

Auckland War Memorial Museum’s John Glen hits the roof.

John Glen looks out over the vast configuration of pipes, ducts, solar panels and other technological paraphernalia that colonise the Auckland War Memorial Museum’s rooftop. “These systems keep the living building breathing,” says Glen, the museum’s head of building infrastructure, who runs occasional guided rooftop tours. “And that helps care for and preserve the taonga within.”

The imposing landmark was built in three stages: the original neo-classical front section opened in 1929 as a memorial to World War I and blends aesthetically with the second section, constructed in 1960 as a memorial to World War II.

The third section, the Grand Atrium, was completed in 2006 and increased the overall footprint of the building by 60% – its copper and glass dome sits high above the rear of the museum like a giant stingray.

john glen auckland museum solar panel

John Glen on the roof of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, above recently restored decorative skylights at the front of the building.

RelatedArticlesModule - museum

Until recently, these buildings were highly dysfunctional, says Glen, who has a background in energy management. “It was only about seven years ago we began seriously reducing our carbon footprint from 1856 tonnes to 970 tonnes, knocking $400,000 off the power and gas bill every year.” But it’s getting those three difficult structures to work together so successfully that makes him proudest.

Today, it’s one of the most sustainable museums in the world, using a range of energy conservation techniques, including recycling the same air in the building at night, using a wider band of temperature and humidity controls through heating and cooling, and planning energy usage around specific visitor numbers. “It’s not just the solar panels; they are the icing on the cake.”

The museum has undergone a major restoration since the 1990s, including earthquake strengthening; the ongoing process of meticulously maintaining a building of such enormous proportions is also immense.

“It’s like restoring a classic car,” says Glen, who hopes to hold rooftop tours on a regular basis in the near future (aucklandmuseum.com). “So far, we’ve mainly done school groups. It’s great showing kids how a sustainable building really works.”

This article was first published in the April 2019 issue of North & South.

Follow North & South on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and sign up to the fortnightly email.

Latest

Why Marlborough, the jewel of NZ's wine industry, is your next destination
My low-rent version of Sisyphus in hell
109522 2019-08-15 00:00:00Z Humour

My low-rent version of Sisyphus in hell

by Michelle Langstone

Michelle Langstone on being injured.

Read more
Requests denied, delayed and redacted
109441 2019-08-14 00:00:00Z Politics

Requests denied, delayed and redacted

by Mike White

Frustrations of the fourth estate.

Read more
Stats NZ could need years to regain public trust
109503 2019-08-14 00:00:00Z Politics

Stats NZ could need years to regain public trust

by Craig McCulloch

The census botch-up has prompted fears the debacle will do long-lasting damage to the public's trust in statistics.

Read more
Gentleman Jack: Suranne Jones on the remarkable Anne Lister
109439 2019-08-14 00:00:00Z Television

Gentleman Jack: Suranne Jones on the remarkable An…

by The Listener

A historical drama about a 19th-century landowner who secretly diarised her relationships with women comes to Neon.

Read more
Hannibal Lecter's creator returns with Cari Mora
108448 2019-08-14 00:00:00Z Books

Hannibal Lecter's creator returns with Cari Mora

by Craig Sisterson

In his first post-Hannibal Lecter book, Thomas Harris heads for Elmore Leonard territory.

Read more
Kiwis in the kitchen: A bite-sized history of NZ cuisine
109468 2019-08-14 00:00:00Z Food

Kiwis in the kitchen: A bite-sized history of NZ c…

by Lauraine Jacobs

Lauraine Jacobs traces the evolution of eating in NZ, from the spartan diet of the war years to the vibrant multi-ethnic melting pot of cuisines...

Read more
The chef bringing the world's cuisine to Kāeo
109526 2019-08-14 00:00:00Z Food

The chef bringing the world's cuisine to Kāeo

by Jenny Ling

Anna Valentine holds cooking workshops in the kitchen of her century-old kauri villa in Kāeo.

Read more