Camp Glenorchy at the head of the lake and ahead of the game.


On a recent family holiday travelling around the stunning South Island, I was blown away by Camp Glenorchy. Well I couldn’t visit the South Island and not pop in to the Living Building Project for a peek!

Our arrival at Camp Glenorchy had been marked by torrential rain and road closures and so when we finally arrived late in the evening – the warm feeling of having arrived home was instantly felt by us all. What struck me first was the instant connection to place that has been created here at Camp Glenorchy through the riverbed paving, indigenous planting and meandering pathway which guided us through the camp ground to our parking for our motor-home.

Nestled at the base of the Richardson and Humboldt Mountains in the unforgettable NZ natural landscape – Camp Glenorchy is not only a beautiful sensitively designed campsite and buildings but also a living lab and solar farm where cutting edge technologies are being monitored and used as educational tools. This project really struck me as an exemplar for sharing, learning, storytelling and community regeneration.

Camp Glenorchy opened in March earlier this year and was designed, built and is being operated in line with the philosophy and principles of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), recognised as the most stringent environmental building design certification in the world. It is registered under the Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) Certification™ pathway.

Camp Glenorchy has been designed to inspire its visitors to see and learn about what’s possible with today’s technologies – and that is exactly what it does. Everywhere you look there is evidence of careful material selection, beautiful storytelling and high technological innovation whilst embracing the past and sharing the stories of Glenorchy’s cultural and community past and present through reclaimed materials and artistic sculptures.

The landscape design incorporates elements that echo the culture and geology of Glenorchy. Schist stone, a material abundantly available and unique to the region, can be seen throughout the site used creatively in stacked-stone walls and as edging across the site, embedded in paths and roads.

The striking intrigue created from the weaved pattern of the stone paving work designed to look like the braided rivers that shape the valleys north of Glenorchy was magical.

One of the strongest elements of the regenerative landscape for me was the wastewater wetlands. A series of three ‘wetlands’ use the naturally occurring ecologies of wetland plants to purify the building’s grey water. They are a central feature of the site offering both the functionality of water treatment and the beauty of this natural beautiful ecological landscape.

My family and I were fortunate to be taken around the Camp by John and were able to get a firsthand view of all aspects of the project’s sustainability choices, regenerative landscaping, solar technologies and composting toilet systems. This project is a leading light for educating and inspiring others to not only build in an environmentally sensitive way but as a flagship for sharing their learning along the way. Their materials list which is an open access resource can be viewed here

Claire Bowles

Claire Bowles

Purpose Director