Nelson City Council has voted in favour of the development of a business case for the refurbishment of Civic House, a proposal that would focus on Council operating from its current base.

Councillors were asked to decide between three options at the Council meeting on Thursday, 13 August, including a new building on the Riverside Precinct, another location within the CBD or redeveloping the existing building.

Issues at Civic House raised by Council staff in Staff Surveys since 2010 include a lack of natural light, inadequate heating and ventilation, excessive noise, and poor facilities. 

Any redevelopment would look to provide a floor-by-floor refurbishment of Civic House so it meets modern office standards.
Refurbishing Civic House was the most cost effective option on the table, with the estimated net cost expected to be $16.5m, phased over a number of years. 

Construction of a new building would have an estimated net cost of $32.7m, this included the income derived from selling the existing building.
Environmental risks were also considered, including the increased risk of flooding due to climate change. 

Council has undertaken specific flood modelling for this area that shows the building can operate for the next 30 – 50 years using the current design.
Additional protections for the Civic House building such as raised floor levels and door thresholds, low walls at ground level, and raising the height of electricity points can provide greater resilience and will be considered in the business case.
In addition to this, wider flood adaptation options are being developed for the Maitai - Mahitahi, but are yet to be presented to council. 

Elected members were advised that there were a range of different options that can be considered as part of wider catchment management for this river system. 

All of these measures have the potential to reduce the flood risk to the city and increase resilience. 

This project, which will require extensive discussions with the community before proceeding, would also directly benefit the Civic House site.
Refurbishment is proposed to be carried out to a Green Star standard, which would result in lower energy costs and a reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the building. 

This would include improvements such as double glazing, LED lighting, and optimised heating and ventilation.
Repurposing buildings rather than constructing new buildings also plays a key role in the mitigation of greenhouse gases. 

The Green Building Council estimates that 50% of a commercial building’s life cycle emissions take place in the construction phase.
Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese supported the decision to refurbish Civic House.
“This is the most cost-effective option available, that also takes into account climate change and managing greenhouse gas emissions. Adaptive reuse and modernised building techniques will use less energy and produce less emissions. I know these are importance considerations for elected members, Council staff, and the public of Nelson. We get the additional benefits of pursuing a cost effective option, close to public and active transport links, and we keep a busy office in the heart of the city.”

Chief Executive Pat Dougherty said it was important for Council staff to work in a safe, and productive environment.
“Council is one of Nelson’s major employers, so it is paramount that Civic House is a comfortable and productive place for people to work. An office that is built to modern standards will also aid Council in attracting and retaining high quality staff.”
Council will now consider its options for relocation/redevelopment of the Elma Turner Library.  

Both business cases would then come back to Council for approval, before being opened to public consultation via the Long Term Plan.