Te Kura Whare

Te Kura Whare provides the centre of governance and a meeting place for Ngāi Tūhoe in Taneatua, near Whakatane. Completed in 2014, it is only the 15th certified Living Building in the world and is New Zealand’s most advanced sustainable building.


Project Details

Client Ngāi Tūhoe
Sector Culture & Community
Location Taneatua
Discipline Architecture, Interior Design
Status Completed 2014

Restoring Tūhoe’s Mana Tangata

Both leading up to and in the wake of the 2013 Deed of Settlement between the Crown and Tūhoe, the iwi had been working toward the revitalization of autonomy and self-governance - mana motuhake - with a focus on protecting their heartland, Te Urewera, which is now a legal entity with “all the rights, powers, duties and liabilities of a legal person.”

Tūhoe needed a meeting place to reinforce their identity and bring together urban and rural iwi for festivals. The resulting project, which includes a building and landscape design, was intended to symbolise, strengthen and reaffirm Tūhoe beliefs and values, and also demonstrate the iwi's commitment to re-develop regenerative infrastructure. The iwi were adamant the new development reflected their inherent connection to the land - mana tangata.

With sustainability a key driver of the concept, it was decided that the building design would comply to the Living Building Challenge criteria. The most stringent and challenging of the green building guidelines available to date, the ‘Challenge’ demands net-zero energy and water, as well as zero waste and toxicity from completed projects.

The people behind the project

A rich layer to Te Kura Whare’s story is the people behind it. The design and construction team was an eclectic mix of professionals: Māori and non-Māori, Tūhoe and non-Tūhoe, aged 24-84.

The project contributed to local economy and tourism with 70% of budget spent within 100km radius of the site. Trade packages were broken down to allow local businesses to tender for work competitively, and local Tūhoe people were employed, and in some cases upskilled, in construction and landscaping.

Local earth, formed into earth bricks by 150 local volunteers, line walls internally. They operate as passive thermal mass and humidity control for the regulation of the internal climate.

Living Building Challenge

Designed to the most challenging sustainable building criteria in the world, every element of the building from design and construction, to on-going operation, aims to minimise its impact on, and even restore, the natural ecosystem.

The building structure and finishes are primarily timber, 95% of which was sourced from local forests with FSC certification. Structural engineers MLB developed an innovative and award winning seismic resistant timber structure to stabilise the building - especially important due to its proximity to a fault-line. The building operates as Tūhoe’s Civil Defence centre after a natural disaster event.

Stormwater retention mechanisms and rainwater collection manage water flows on site and a purpose-designed botanical waste-water system complete a regenerative water-loop system.

This resource of LBC and Green Star compliant products has been integrated into standard specification selections for all Jasmax projects.

The project team researched more than 760 building materials to ensure none contained any Red List chemicals.



2014 Best Awards - Purple Pin - Ngā Aho
2014 PCNZ Awards - Special Purpose - Best in Category
2014 PCNZ Awards - Green Building Property - Best in Category