Green Building and our environmental impacts

29 April 2019

Environment Aotearoa 2019 published by the Ministry for the Environment on 18 April is an alarming stocktake of New Zealand’s environmental performance. The report notes that thousands of species are on the brink of extinction, 90 percent of the country's wetlands are drained, 94 percent of urban rivers are not swimmable and native forest which used to cover 80 percent of the country, now covers only a quarter.

While much of the report focuses on rural impacts the report highlights a number of issues affecting urban areas (including buildings). Green building practices address many of these issues and Green Star and Homestar certifications incentivise and measure the outcomes. Here is a brief look at how they address the report themes:

  1. Ecosystems and biodiversity – we care about water quality through our incentives for better stormwater treatment on-site, avoiding contaminants reaching the sea and water ways through storm water outlets.
  2. How we use our land – we reward less stormwater run-off, more efficient use of urban land – encouraging regeneration of old sites, reuse of existing buildings and materials, sensitive planting. We support building more densely when it is ‘done well’: i.e. where design leads to improved health outcomes for inhabitants, reducing the demand on land outside the urban area for building.
  3. Pollution from our activities – our standards reward better acoustic insulation, more efficient and effective lighting and insulation for warmth, and reduce pollution in multiple ways:waste to landfill reduction, designing to encourage less vehicle use with access to alternative means of transport, share vehicles, electric vehicle charging, public transport. Waste water and stormwater are also addressed.
  4. How we use our freshwater – our standards encourage more efficient water usage within buildings, reducing demand for water from our rivers and the need for increased fresh water supply, also reducing the environmental consequences of expanded water supply. Less stormwater run-off also reduces infrastructure cost and impact.
  5. Our changing climate – again better transport to and from buildings reduces our greenhouse gas emissions load, likewise better energy efficiency of buildings reduces our per capita GHG emissions. We are also working to reduce embodied carbon in new builds and refits that will in turn reduce our GHG emissions.

Read the full report Aotearoa Environment 2019.

More about our building certification schemes Homestar and Green Star.