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Jeff Vivian & the Late Ivan Mercep


Company:Arrow International, Auckland, JASMAX

Project:Te Uru Taumatua, Taneatua, Bay of Plenty

Role:Jeff (Project Manager), Ivan (Architect)

Client:Te Uru Taumatua Trust

Project Value:$14.875 million

Taneatua is situated 13kms south of Whakatane. The LBC requires working out where everything on the project will come from and has restrictions on materials by geographic distance.  Jeff and Ivan worked with Living Futures to redefine the appropriate distances for NZ. 70% of the construction spend went to suppliers and contractors within a 100km radius of the site.

They had to research and work with suppliers for 760 materials used in the build to ensure they contained no harmful chemicals. They had to ensure that all materials used were non-toxic, locally available where possible and throughout their lifecycle would not cause an adverse environmental issue including illness, squandered embodied energy, pollution and resource depletion. A red list was generated of materials that could not be used. This involved working with every supplier ensuring they understood what LBC was, certifying what their products were made of, making changes or suggestions to their make up if possible and obtaining sign off from the Living Futures Institute for each. For example; concrete spacers/bar chairs were previously made using formaldehyde but through the team’s initiation, the manufacturers have now removed this ingredient permanently with no adverse effects to the product.

Tuhoe were keen to use their own mills where possible, this was challenging as the mill management was initially reluctant to change their habits – Jeff and Ivan persevered and FSC certification was achieved with these mills in five months. Tuhoe wanted a strong connection to the Urewera’s incorporated into the building using local timber but LBC did not generally allow use of native timber – Jeff worked to come to an agreement with the stringent building programmes adjudicators to allow its use. He spent 8 hours on horseback with a Tuhoe representative GPS locating selected suitable trees. Horses were used to drag logs out and others floated down the river –no major mechanical means of extraction could be used.

Jeff facilitated the running of advertisements, in local papers, council websites, interviewing people, and overseeing induction process as they came onto site. This process saw two new local companies formed, 12 people permanently off the unemployment benefit and three people get their apprenticeships on site. The $2million carpentry package was broken down into five smaller packages enabling smaller local contractors the opportunity to tender –fitting in with LBC guidelines. Jeff lifted the skills of the local community workforce to commercial health and safety standards. He worked closely to develop a first principles approach to the unique construction methods and production rates, and then built his programme around that.

Ivan and Jeff, along with Tuhoe, their client developed the building’s design in a deeply collaborative and detailed process in order for it to meet the LBC guidelines. Ivan appreciated Jeff’s ability to understand the importance of the various architectural ideas around this significant building project, and Jeff always ensured key architectural parts of the project were protected. Together they pushed the boundaries of what is possible in New Zealand using innovative methods and materials. There is no doubt that Jeff and the late Ivan Mercep of Jasmax were equally instrumental in the success of this extremely innovative project – a shared dream and an inspiration to others. Very sadly Ivan passed away just prior to the building opening.