The fourth in a series of profiles of New Zealand business leaders utilising technological solutions for a zero-emission future, Pure Advantage and Westpac
When New Zealand’s first zero energy campground opens next year, at Glenorchy, Lake Wakatipu, arriving guests will be immediately aware this is not camping as they’ve known it. In between throwing frisbees and burning steaks on the BBQ, they’ll get a crash course in how a site can be designed and operated to use only as much energy as it produces – what’s more, they’ll be helping to make it happen.
“We want to bring them into the picture, to let them know ‘You guys are a part of achieving the zero energy goal’,” says Matt Fordham of Evident, the consultancy responsible for the intelligent automation system – think of it as a central brain – that actively manages Camp Glenorchy’s energy use.
During the past six months, Fordham and Evident co-founder Shay Brazier have been developing a user-friendly app that will allow guests to see the impact of their energy-use decisions.
“They can interact with the buildings, see how they’re performing and get feedback on how their behaviour is going to affect the chances of achieving zero energy,” says Brazier.
For the pair, who founded Evident off the back of a 2013 groundbreaking zero energy residential project in Auckland, Glenorchy has allowed them to put their principles and smarts into action on a larger-than-usual stage. They describe Evident as a “mission-led” business, and want to transform the built environment by inspiring and educating others about sustainable building principles. At Glenorchy, which is powered by a 200kw solar farm, guests will be learning even when they turn up the heating.
But the project at Wakatipu has also been an education for Fordham and Brazier, and in particular has sharpened their awareness of the value of so-called ‘systems thinking’.
“You start to think about a building as a system, and you realise that the big gains in sustainability will be made if we can get things to work together, rather than separately,” says Brazier.
Getting the guests involved, for example, is not only about education and inspiration – it’s critical to Glenorchy’s success.
In the same vein, Fordham and Brazier have been consulted by the client about aspects that you’d ordinarily expect to be outside their purview, such as the booking system.
“In terms of the number of guests on site, for example, we are pulling that information out every half hour so we can adjust how much hot water is stored,” says Fordham. “And that’s something we’ve learned as result of this project: that there are all these opportunities for integration that aren’t traditionally thought of.”
Once Glenorchy is up and running next year, they will monitor it closely, gathering data for the zero energy certification, fine-tuning the buildings.
In keeping with Evident’s ‘open source’ approach to business, nothing will be a state secret.
“As a company, we’ve got a strong interest trying to innovate and push boundaries, but we want that to be open and collaborative, because [that’s how you] scale the effect,” says Fordham. “For us, one of the most exciting things about [Camp Glenorchy] is that a lot of the knowledge gained through the design and construction isn’t being locked away; the vision is to make that available to be discovered, and for people to be inspired.”