Reflecting their purpose to shape a better world, Arup’s new workplace is designed to push boundaries. It sets new benchmarks for cultural inclusivity, sustainability, and employee experience.

Global specialist engineering firm, Arup set out with a goal to create one of the most sustainable workplaces in Aotearoa New Zealand. Arup’s portfolio includes some of the most iconic architectural and civil engineering developments in our modern history, including the Sydney Opera House, the Gherkin, London, and the tireless restoration of the La Sagrada Família, Barcelona.

Arup’s establishment in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa (Auckland, New Zealand) is in response to their delivery of a transformational transport infrastructure development for the country. Arup engaged Unispace to create a workspace that attracts, retains, and supports a specialist workforce to aid in delivering these works.

As an organisation deeply committed to sustainable development, Arup set out to target the most comprehensive sustainability accreditation in the world, the Living Building Challenge. Key priorities for the space also involved weaving the local Māori cultural narrative into the workplace design and creating an environment that encouraged their people to return to the office.

The workplace has been an immense success. Post occupancy data shows average utilization is at 95% – a rate higher than pre-pandemic. To accommodate the increased demand, Arup and Unispace are working together to expand the workplace into the building’s sub-tenancy area.


The workplace is designed with a hybrid workstyle, supporting a 4:1 Flexible Working Policy. Employees can choose to work from traditional desks, informal collaboration spaces, mixed-sized meeting rooms or a specially designed innovation hub. Town halls and events are supported in a central cafeteria zone. The people-centric design has focused on achieving the following organizational priorities:

  • Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB)
  • Spiritual connection to space
  • Emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being
  • Sustainable performance (materials and biophilia)


Unispace worked with Arup’s specialist sustainability engineers and local Māori tangata whenua (ancestral people) to develop the strategy, design, and construction pathways for the project.

Pursuing Living Building Challenge certification challenged both Unispace and Arup to go further, setting the benchmark for corporate environments in the future. It was important that the native New Zealand culture – known locally as the Māori worldview – was meaningfully felt, seen, and connected with within the workplace.

As such, a significant engagement was undertaken with Māori tangata whenua, Dane Tumahai and Paora Puru of Te Manu Taupua Ltd, to ensure the workplace design connects with New Zealand’s environmental and cultural heritage.

The Māori principle of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) connected strongly with the Living Building Challenge. Guiding design and construction, the project targeted minimal impacts to nature, reusing and upcycling materials to reduce waste – ultimately leaving a net positive impact on the environment and occupants’ wellbeing.


Living Buildings are regenerative and positive, requiring a progressive and thoughtful approach to design and construction to achieve net positive carbon, water, and waste targets. It is an accreditation that raises the benchmark.

The Unispace project team achieved the following outcomes in the design and construction of Arup’s workplace:

  • 99% of waste produced was diverted from landfill.
  • ~90% of materials free of toxic ingredients, fostering a healthier work environment free of toxins and harmful chemicals.
  • 50% of materials sourced locally within New Zealand, minimizing transportation impacts and supporting local economies.
  • 95% of workstations located within 14 meters of natural light.
  • 100% of timber is FSC-certified.
  • 100% carbon neutral fit out through carbon offset.

Original bricks from the heritage basebuild were salvaged and repurposed into a feature kitchen bench. The benchtop material alone closed the loop for over 5,000 pieces of plastic waste.

The Living Building Challenge goes beyond just reducing harm. It positively impacts the future and in addition to waste and toxicity mitigation, it creates beauty through reuse and restoration. This project has reshaped the way Unispace’s contractors work, all suppliers and trades were educated and upskilled to comply with the stringent processes, creating a new best practice standard in the industry.

Compliance with the Living Building Challenge is based on actual, rather than anticipated performance. Projects undergo a 12-month performance period to verify compliance. Once this is complete, Arup’s workplace will be the first interior to receive Living Building Challenge certification in New Zealand.

Unispace completed end-to-end design and construction within 10 months, with an 11-week window for construction. This is an incredible achievement for the Unispace project team given the additional complexity and diligence the Living Building Challenge requires.

Project: Arup
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Design Studio: Unispace
Photo Credit: Lawrence Anderson

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