News digest: green building goes mainstream, shift to zero carbon economy creating growth and jobs

09 July 2019

(Photo by Filip Mishevski on Unsplash)

Smaller homes can help save money and the planet, global green bonds hit a new record, energy efficiency is key to creating a sustainable global energy system, steps are being taken to reduce the amount of construction waste going into landfill, and planting billions of trees could help tackle the climate crisis. These stories and more in our regular round up of green building and climate change news from here and around the world.

GBC news

Housing New Zealand's 2023 deadline for the government's healthy homes standards could be significantly better according to the Green Building Council, reports RNZ.

The size of the average New Zealand home being built today is 167m2 compared to 198m2 a decade ago, reports TVNZ. The Green Building Council says smaller homes that are well designed can save people money and the environment.

The Canada Green Building Council says striving for zero carbon status in new buildings can deliver profitable returns compared to building to the country’s existing energy code, reports Daily Commercial News.

Environmental performance rankings for existing buildings in NZ have established a strong foothold, reports Newsroom. While new buildings have been able to seek environmental certification since 2007, it wasn’t until the launch of the Green Star Performance rating tool by the NZ Green Building Council in late 2017 that the owners and tenants of existing buildings could access a ‘health check’ for established properties.

Green buildings and homes

Green building has gone mainstream and will continue to be a major focus as younger generations enter the housing market, both as buyers and renters, reports Forbes.

The global green building materials market reached a value of US$223.1 billion in 2018. Looking forward, the market is projected to reach a value of US$432.5 billion by 2024, reports IMARC Group.

More than 70 universities are being encouraged to work together and transform their campuses to be the “greenest in the world”, reports the UN Environment Programme. Many universities see adopting green technologies as a way to reduce costs and further sustainability.

Stuff profiles a new certified passive house for sale in the Waikato. It has been insulated to more than double the standard and includes heat transfer ventilation systems, airtight joinery and solar water heating.

Investment

Global green bond issuance has surpassed the $100 billion mark already this year, the first time the milestone has been reached in the first half of the year, reports Reuters.

With more than €15 billion worth of green bonds issued since January, France has become a leader of green finance, ahead of the US and the Netherlands, reports Euractiv.

The UK government unveiled its green finance strategy, urging the financial sector to take the lead in developing a greener economy to help meet the ambitious greenhouse gas emission target the country has set for mid-century, reports The Guardian.

Energy

The International Energy Agency has launched a new Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency. The IEA says energy efficiency is key to creating a sustainable global energy system.

The British Government has promised to turbocharge the deployment of energy efficiency measures in buildings across the UK, reports Business Green.

Australians are building new homes that just reach minimum energy standards. Domain reports that this is creating a legacy of homes with relatively poor energy performance, making it likely the transition to a low-energy and low-carbon economy will get progressively more challenging and expensive.

Forty complaints have been taken to the Tenancy Tribunal since a new law forcing landlords to insulate their properties kicked in on July 1, reports Stuff.

Construction

Two big organisations in the property and construction industry have no objections to bigger fines of up to $1.5 million for breaches of the Building Act in a major overhaul of the legislation, reports Stuff.

Renovations have become a defacto second rung for many on the property ladder, with homeowners finding doing up or expanding their home more attractive than selling and buying in the current market, reports Stuff.

Air quality

In the winter of 2017 Timaru's pollution levels were the worst in Australasia, according to the World Health Organisation. Environment Canterbury says those levels are now on a 'downward' trend, reports Stuff.

And it looks like Arrowtown might take over the mantle of worst air quality in Australasia this year as it is breaching national standards every time the temperature drops below freezing, reports the Otago Daily Times.

Meanwhile, air quality in Hastings twice exceeded national pollution standards over the last weekend of June. Domestic fires were the main cause of the breaches, reports the Herald.

Waste

A reduction in construction waste going to landfill in New Zealand is a step closer, reports Environmental Choice New Zealand. It has released a draft specification recognising good environmental practice in waste management and minimisation. The draft is open for comment until mid-August.

The New Zealand Government will spend $40 million from its Provincial Growth Fund on crowd-sourcing ideas to reduce the amount of plastic waste in New Zealand. Projects that can get under way by 2020 will be a priority, reports the Herald.

Zero carbon

If we're serious about giving ourselves the best chance at a safe future, the Zero Carbon Bill must be strengthened to ensure that New Zealand acts immediately and halves its net carbon emissions by 2030, says Generation Zero in Stuff. Public submissions on the Zero Carbon Bill close on July 16, 2019.

Innovation

Aucklanders will have their say on new City Centre Masterplan designs when public consultation opens mid-August. The city council says the new designs reveal a friendly, safe and vibrant place with more green space, modern trams and pedestrianised streets buzzing with people.

In pockets of China’s construction scene, bamboo is considered "green gold" for its potential as a sustainable building material, reports Radii China. Thanks to new technologies it is already being used in a wide range of products such as flooring, railway sleepers, storm-drainage pipes, shock-resistant exteriors for bullet-train carriages and wind turbine blades.

A urinal system that produces phosphate for fertiliser has been developed by an engineering graduate at the University of Cape Town. The system has since been installed in a new office development that won an innovation star from the Green Building Council of South Africa.

Climate change

Planting billions of trees is by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, reports the Guardian. New analysis shows an area the size of the US is available for planting trees around the world and could remove two-thirds of the carbon humans have added to the atmosphere.

The transition to a carbon-neutral economy can be a driver for growth and jobs, says the European Commission. It predicts that by 2030 the transition will create an additional 1.2 million jobs in the EU, on top of the 12 million new jobs already expected.

Climate crisis disasters are happening at the rate of one a week, though most draw little international attention and work is urgently needed to prepare developing countries for the profound impacts, reports the Guardian.

The consulting firm Moody’s Analytics says climate change could inflict $69 trillion in damage on the global economy by the year 2100, reports the Washington Post.

The world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers, reports The Guardian.

Saudi Arabia successfully lobbied for a major climate change report to be scrubbed from international negotiations on limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C, reports the Independent.

And the US was the only country that failed to support the G20 nations’ renewal of a vow to take action to curb climate change, reports the Herald.

New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions have flat-lined over the last decade. However, cuts in some sectors were offset by increases by households (up 9 percent) and dairy (up 27 percent) between 2007 and 2017, reports Stuff.

The Productivity Commission says new methods are needed to help councils adapt to climate change which poses threats to local government infrastructure like roads and bridges and wastewater and stormwater systems, reports Stuff.

While local councils around New Zealand are declaring climate change emergencies, questions are being raised over whether the move will create any tangible change, reports Stuff.