Government unveils plans for a once in a generation green building reform | Green Building Council response

03 July 2020

The Government’s plans to transform the building sector to slash emissions is a huge step towards tackling climate change, the New Zealand Green Building Council says.

For years the NZGBC and its 500 strong membership throughout the sector have been pushing for improvements to our woeful Building Code, for an acknowledgement that our sector has a key part to play in mitigating climate change emissions, and for a national approach to building that actually provides warm, healthy, efficient places for New Zealanders to live and thrive in.

The Government’s Building for Climate Change programme announced today is a hugely important acknowledgement and step towards this.

“Over the last few years we’ve seen momentum grow rapidly, with more of the construction sector actively thinking about their impact and how they can build better. This programme elevates that conversation to another level. This sends the industry a clear message that this is the future, that they need to get involved and do their bit to help mitigate climate change,” NZGBC chief executive Andrew Eagles says.

We know a typical new Kiwi home emits five times too much carbon and housing needs to shrink its carbon footprint by 80 percent if we’re to meet our Paris climate change commitments. Constructing and renovating New Zealand buildings between now and 2050 could pump out climate change pollution equivalent to one million cars on the road every year.

As well as helping our environment, the other benefits of higher standards are massive.

“Better building means lower bills for families and businesses. Warmer, drier homes. Healthier workplaces, and healthier New Zealanders. Plus tackling climate change makes economic sense – the economic damage climate change could wreak is huge.”

“The best time to have this plan was 10 years ago. The second best time is now, so let’s get on with it.”

The Zero Carbon Roadmap, launched last year, points to zero-energy new buildings by 2030 through updates to the Building Code in 2022, 2024, and 2026. Currently the Building Code has little to no consideration of climate, or of adequate energy and insulation standards.

“The clock is ticking. The vision laid out by the Government is a great one, but we need to move quickly and create some short term targets. The government is promising bold action and a once in a generation system change. We need to ensure this programme delivers the change our future generations deserve.”

One worrying statement made in the programme outline is that it’s possible that improving new buildings will be enough to get New Zealand back on track for the 2050 goals.

“While it’s going to be really important that we build zero carbon homes and buildings, our existing stock absolutely needs a desperate retrofit to ensure we no longer have homes contributing to respiratory illness, or commercial buildings using vast amounts of energy wasting businesses hundreds of millions of dollars each year."

“There is a lot of work to do. This won’t be easy or happen overnight, but if we push ahead we’ll create a New Zealand our children and grandchildren will be proud of.”