Wellington Scoop

VUW expanding marae precinct to become a Living Pā

living pa

News from VUW
The Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington Council has confirmed its financial commitment to developing the University’s marae precinct into a Living Pā that is one of the world’s most environmentally responsible buildings and will become a new icon for Wellington and Aotearoa.

The Council confirmed investment of up to $45 million in the Living Pā project on the same day (6 December) on which the University’s wharenui (carved house), Te Tumu Herenga Waka, was opened 35 years ago.

The Living Pā redevelops Te Herenga Waka Marae as a hub where people are empowered to work, teach, and learn sustainably in a building that meets the most rigorous environmental standards in the world, the Living Building Challenge principles.

The Council allocated a preliminary tranche of financial support to the project a year ago, allowing site work to be carried out during 2021. Fundraising is also underway to ensure the project delivers the maximum benefits as a purpose-built living lab that is an incubator for innovation, and a place for multiple communities and disciplines to come together to discuss how we can build a more equitable, fair, and sustainable society.

Te Herenga Waka Chancellor Neil Paviour-Smith says the Living Pā is an exciting initiative that encapsulates the best of the University and its future.

“The University Council is delighted to be in a position to commit to this transformative and visionary project on the eve of the University’s 125year celebrations.

“It truly symbolises the aspiration of the University set out in the strategic plan. A global-civic, capital city university with our marae at our heart. This will be a space that demonstrates our commitment to sustainability, research excellence, and a great student experience.”

Work carried out on the site of the Living Pā this year has seen several houses on Kelburn Parade deconstructed.

In keeping with the principles underpinning the project, all salvageable material inside the houses, including native timbers, fireplaces, fittings, fixtures, windows, doors, roofing sheet and sarking, have been removed by a contractor who salvages buildings in accordance with requirements under the certification of the Living Building Challenge.

Construction of the Living Pā building can now begin in April next year with the gold standard facility expected to be completed in 2024.

Between now and April, New Zealand company Red Stag Timber will be prototyping and testing new cross-laminated timber components for the Living Pā—a new approach to the typical one of making base components of a building from concrete.

The components are carbon sequestering, meaning they will capture and store carbon, contributing towards the Living Pā being a carbon positive building, while also providing the required dynamic performance in an earthquake and, importantly, meeting the design intent of the Living Pā.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Rawinia Higgins said Council confirmation of its financial support was an exciting milestone for the project and for the University as a whole.

“The overarching vision of the Living Pā has always been about building our community as a university, reflecting our Te Herenga Waka name. An investment in the Living Pā is an investment in our people—Māori and non-Māori, students, staff, and our wider external communities.

“The Living Pā is an important component of our objective towards strengthening and growing the Iho of the University to position Te Herenga Waka for the future. Our goal is to grow the number of Māori students and staff, making Te Herenga Waka the first-choice university for Māori and for those who believe in our global civic mission. The Living Pā is not only a strong physical representation of the University’s vision but also the platform from which we can give effect to the Iho across the whole university.”


  1. Jamie, 13. December 2021, 6:14

    Great that more wood is being used, but the claims of carbon offset are likely greenwashing. Most of Red Stags timber comes from pre-1990 forests. The carbon sequestration of these forests has been counted in the Kyoto Protocol period. To be a true offset, a unit of carbon needs to be cancelled rather than claiming a credit because an alternative building process has been claimed. It is exactly like claiming that an EV is 100% carbon friendly when you cannot determine whether some of the power used to fuel it has come from coal, gas or geothermal (yes this has a C02 footprint).
    Don’t get me wrong. The use of wood versus concrete and steel is good. But claims need to be validated and there are plenty of fake carbon claims happening with double counting etc.

  2. Claire, 13. December 2021, 10:32

    This is the future: three or four storey buildings in wood. Seismically it makes sense, and from the low emissions point of view also.
    Let make Wellington a wooden city.