Big energy efficiency news, and some great World Green Building Week events on the way

29 July 2019

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

As I’m writing this, during an unseasonably warm New Zealand winter, significant swathes of Europe are sweltering in a mercury-busting summer. Brockwell Lido, an outdoor swimming pool just a few hundred metres down the road from where I used to live in Brixton, south London, had a waiting time of three hours to get in. As hundreds of people queued in soaring temperatures, tensions soared too, and police were called to manage the crowds. At the same time, Heathrow Airport hit a record high temperature.

Climate change is here, and our industry has a huge role to play in tackling it. And one of the key tools to tackle climate change is energy efficiency.

That’s why it was so encouraging (and not before time!) to finally hear the government make a public commitment to NABERSNZ, the building energy efficiency rating.

The government is the nation’s largest, and most significant tenant. It leases and owns over 1 million square metres. Government has, as Minister David Parker said in Parliament, a leadership role to play in the use of NABERSNZ. So when Minister Parker said, “Any new building developed for government office accommodation is required to be measured for a NABERSNZ rating, with a target rating of four stars”, it was an important moment. “The next step is to include leased buildings,” he said.

This is welcome news, for sure. Now we need to hear a timeline from the government, and we’ll be asking for just that. The starting gun to make all government buildings energy efficient has been fired. But we can’t run a victory lap with them before they’ve run the race. The best time for government to have done this was several years ago. And the second best time is right now. They need to fly out of the starting blocks, and clean up all their buildings now, not after rounds of studies and committees and consultations.

Some clarity from the government will be a great help, and will provide the certainty being asked for. Energy Managers Association of New Zealand, Facilities Managers Association of New Zealand, Corenet (1300 of the largest owners and tenants of New Zealand), Bayleys, Barfoot and Thompson, CBRE, JLL and we here at the Green Building Council recommend that, firstly, the government declares that, from January 2021, NABERSNZ ratings will be required on the base building for all leases or re-leases in buildings of over 1000 square metres for Government agencies or ministries. And, secondly, from October 2023 all buildings with a lease or re-lease for government agencies or ministries will be required to achieve a base building NABERSNZ rating of at least 4 stars.

This would make it really clear to all building owners and their agents. It provides a year and a half for all those to get an initial rating and three and a half years to get to 4 stars. New South Wales required 4.5 stars 15 years ago.

You can help drive change, simply by asking your landlord what the NABERSNZ rating is for the building you work in. If they don’t have one, ask when it might be possible to get one.

Making our buildings energy efficient is simple and straightforward. Other climate solutions will require a bit more effort. Our built environment in Aotearoa has to go zero carbon by 2050 throughout the entire lifecycle, from construction, raw material extraction, the manufacture of products such as steel and concrete, and the energy used for the likes of heating and lighting. This will involve some challenges. But we have to accept those challenges, overcome them, and deploy solutions quickly.

During this year’s World Green Building Week (which is looking like maybe the best WGBW ever in Aotearoa) we’ll be hosting a series of nationwide debates, tackling these tough issues head on.

Come along and take part in World Green Building Week in ChristchurchWellington, and Auckland as experts from a variety of sectors robustly discuss topics including the carbon emitted by the production of building materials, managing peak electricity demand, and removing fossil fuels, such as gas boilers, from our buildings.

Each of these three discussions will be chaired by renowned journalist Rod Oram, and they’re sure to be packed, so do register soon.

World Green Building Week is for all of us, and we’d love you to be a part by putting on your own event. It could be a cycling tour of your local green buildings, or a low-carbon breakfast with your friends and workmates, or a presentation about what your organisation is doing to tackle climate change. Or something else entirely. We’d love to hear about your plans for the week, and to support them. Do please drop me a line if we can help with this, or with anything else.

Heoi anō tāku mō nāianei

That's all for now!

Andrew

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