News digest: Cold, damp houses are making our kids sick, huge potential to cut construction emissions, climate change could cause New Zealand GDP to plummet

21 August 2019

Photo by Ian Froome on Unsplash

A new report reveals the big difference our construction industry can make to reduce New Zealand’s emissions, a global competition highlights projects that are helping to decarbonise our cities, more than $66 billion invested in green bonds in the second quarter of this year, cold, damp houses are making our kids sick, July was the hottest month on record for the planet, and climate change could cause GDP to plummet. These stories and more in our regular round up of green building and climate change news from here and around the world.

GBC news

Climate change pollution from New Zealand's construction industry could be cut by more than 40%, reveals a new report commissioned by the NZ Green Building Council. However, if no action is taken to reduce levels the industry could pump out emissions equivalent to one million cars on the road every year from now until 2050. The report received wide coverage including TVNZ, RNZ, Newshub and Stuff.

The US Green Building Council reports that there has been a 19% increase in LEED green home certification in America since 2017. On average, LEED-certified homes use 20-30% less energy than a traditional home, with some homeowners reporting up to 60 percent savings.

Green buildings

Sustainability Times reviews some of the winners of the 'open source' Reinventing Cities competition designed to accelerate decarbonised, resilient and sustainable urban environments around the world.

Architectural Digest looks at green buildings and products that have been certified as having a net positive environmental impact by the International Living Futures Institute.

Design Boom reports on the construction of a 'vertical forest' as part of a two tower apartment development in Milan. In total, the scheme includes 780 planted trees to increase the site’s biodiversity which may have been adversely affected during the project’s construction.

A co-housing project in Austin, Texas is one of the greenest buildings in the city promoting both communal and sustainable living, reports Inhabitat.

Climate change

Much of the planet sweltered in unprecedented heat in July, as temperatures soared to new heights in the hottest month ever recorded. The record warmth also shrank Arctic and Antarctic sea ice to historic lows, reports the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

New research from the University of Cambridge says that climate change could see New Zealand GDP plummet by 10%, says Science Daily.

Greenhouse gases in 2018 were at levels unseen in 60 years of modern measurements and 800,000 years of ice core data, reports The Guardian.

To combat climate change we must make major changes to how we manage farmland, forests, and our own food, reports Vox. A special report from the IPCC says land use currently accounts for 23% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and warns that climate change is placing additional stress on land, increasing degradation, biodiversity loss and food insecurity. Newsroom looks at the implications for NZ.

Climate change and air pollution will have a significant impact on global economies by 2060, costing them billions of dollars in GDP according to the OECD, reports Air Quality News.

The Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tuvalu ended last week in open division over climate change with Australia watering down its commitments. The Conversation reports Australia's inability to meet Pacific Island expectations will erode its influence and leadership credentials in the region, and provide opportunities for other countries to grow influence in the region.

Seventy media organisations from around the world, including most of NZ's major news outlets, are taking part in Covering Climate Change Now - a week of climate change reporting, beginning on Monday 16 September, in the lead-up to a UN summit on climate change in New York, reports RNZ.


The global green bond market hit a new all-time quarterly high during the second quarter of this year, as issuers brought $66.6bn to market, reports Forbes.


BloombergNEF forecasts the rise of renewable power sources in its New Energy Outlook 2019 saying billions will be invested in wind, solar and energy storage technologies over the next three decades.

Auckland Council is expanding its ‘Retrofit Your Home’ programme to include solar energy, energy storage and energy efficiency interventions. Retrofit Your Home provides homeowners with a loan of up to $5000 which is repaid through their rates bill over a nine-year term.


A NZ study reveals that almost a fifth of hospital admissions of young children with acute respiratory infections could be prevented if their houses were free from damp and mould, reports TVNZ. The latest data from Statistics New Zealand shows a third or Kiwis report living in a damp flat or house, and a third report their home is mouldy.

RNZ reports a South Auckland charity is helping families warm up their homes using low cost solutions, including bubble wrap for window insulation.

Stuff looks at scheme to address a daunting housing crisis in the Far North by 'recycling' former Housing NZ homes transported from Auckland. And, The Spinoff looks at a new iwi-led solution in Auckland that has resulted in 30 warm, dry and generous terrace homes in Ōrākei

Auckland Council has approved high-level plans for up to 34,500 new houses around Drury and Pukekohe over the next 30 years, reports the NZ Herald. There is steady growth in the number of new homes being built in Auckland with more than 10,500 completed in the past year, reports Interest. Meanwhile, in a separate story, Interest reports that the number of building consents for major home renovations in Auckland was static last year. Consents for alterations were down in Canterbury as post earthquake work remediation work was completed but consent numbers increased in Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Wellington and Otago.

Air quality

Air quality monitoring in Timaru this winter identified more than 270 households with smokey fires even though many had compliant burners, reports Stuff. Environment Canterbury says efficient wood burners will smoke badly if you don't burn good, dry wood and use the correct technique.

Concerned Tauranga residents are set to launch a campaign for cleaner air in their region as the Bay of Plenty Regional Council investigates an asphalt company after it discharged plumes of smoke, reports TVNZ.


A growing Auckland is producing 700,000 tonnes of waste a year from construction and demolition. A new report outlines two key options to address the problem, reports Interest.

Renew Energy hopes to build a $260 million waste to energy plant in Hokitika by 2022. Supporters of the proposal say it will be the solution to unsustainable landfills while opponents say it will be a "climate bomb" of toxic waste and methane emissions, reports Stuff.

Climate change and rising sea levels threaten the destruction of more landfill sites like the Fox River rubbish dump that was broken apart by a big storm earlier this year, reports TVNZ. The clean up of that disaster took five months and about 1000 volunteers.

Building code

Insurance or a building guarantee should be compulsory for people building a new home and doing a renovation over $30,000 say the majority of public submissions in response to the government's overhaul of the Building Act 2004, reports Stuff.