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Ngāti Hine Childcare Centre Benefits from Natural Lighting Solutions

The brief to Phil Smith, a specialist in passive environmental architecture, was to design a unique state-of-the-art childcare facility that embodied the client's Māori culture and customs in a modern and green way.

The building's design emerged from the Māori tradition that all life is born from the womb of Papatūānuku (earth mother). The design executed the tradition with the building literally growing out of the womb-like land on which it was positioned. This sensitivity to cultural tradition also informed the natural yet modern architecture in a way that was sustainable and green.

A key challenge for the project was fulfilling the brief whilst also delivering a balance between providing clear and efficient light throughout the day and simultaneously mitigating heat loss and heat gain. All of which had to be achieved with low environmental impact.

The solution came in a Solatube Daylighting system that was installed throughout the childcare centre. In a particularly stunning execution of the brief, two Solatube 290DS Daylighting Systems were installed into the reception and office into a large striking hanging light feature.

Other aspects of the natural design approach included installation of eight Solatube 750DS Open Ceiling Daylighting Systems throughout the building to light classrooms and one VS3004 HomeTech Ventilation unit installed into changing and sleeping areas.

As an assessor for the Green Building Council, Phil Smith understood the intricacies of balancing natural daylighting with heat loss. This understanding guided his choice towards the Solatube 750DS Daylighting System to boost the daylight levels at the rear of the classrooms.

“We needed a product that maximised natural lighting but minimised heat losses and glazed roof-lights just did not cut it," he explains. "The Solatube Daylighting Systems have a great U-value but better still, they actually boost the daylight levels from the aperture — visitors really think there is a light bulb inside it!”

The result was that the Ngāti Hine Childcare Centre was rightfully celebrated for its clever execution of green design and architecture and its sympathetic representation of traditional Maori culture and values. It received a 6 Green Star rating.

Architect: Phil Smith, Architect (UK), RIBA, NZ GSAP

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