News digest: New Zealand’s big plans for World Green Building Week, where are the architects who will put the environment first, passive house goes massive in Canada, and warming oceans "poised to unleash misery"

04 September 2019

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

World Green Building Week happens later this month and there are events planned around New Zealand, the “architectural profession needs to reconsider its value systems”, a new eco village is being built in the Bay of Plenty, Vancouver is planning a 60-storey passive house tower, and the IPCC says our oceans are under serious threat from climate change. These stories and more in our regular round up of green building and climate change news from here and around the world.

GBC news

NZGBC will host a series of events around the country during World Green Building Week (23-29 September). This year’s theme is #BuildingLife, and focuses on reducing carbon emissions from all stages of a building’s lifecycle.

A typical 'good practice' specification for commercial buildings should include an ability to achieve NABERS NZ and/or New Zealand Green Building Council certification, reports the NZ Herald.

Green buildings

Architecture and Design profiles three office spaces that have impeccable green credentials and are setting sustainability goals for the commercial building sector.

A warehouse in Holland has been judged one of the most sustainable industrial buildings in the world, reports European Sting. Its environmentally friendly features include solar panels that feed surplus energy into the grid, and toilets that flush with rainwater collected from the roof.

Narcity reports on a proposal to build a 60-storey passive house tower in Vancouver which would be the largest of its kind in the world.

A new eco village being built by Tūhoe in the Bay of Plenty is visited by the NZ Herald’s Rod Emmerson (paywalled). The multi-purpose sprawling complex is predominantly made with local timbers and rammed earth. It generates its own electricity it collects rainwater, treats its own greywater and sewerage, and provides kai for the kitchen from the gardens at the back.

Climate change

The same oceans that nourished human evolution are poised to unleash misery on a global scale unless the carbon pollution destabilising Earth's marine environment is brought to heel, warns a draft UN report obtained by AFP. Destructive changes already set in motion could see a steady decline in fish stocks, a hundred-fold or more increase in the damages caused by superstorms, and hundreds of millions of people displaced by rising seas, according to the IPCC special report.

The destruction of the Amazon, the world’s biggest rainforest, is a grim reminder that a fresh approach is needed to stabilise the climate and prevent ecosystems from declining to a point of no return, says the executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, reports the Guardian.

Hundreds of thousands of people and billions of dollars worth of property in New Zealand are at risk from flooded rivers and rising seas according to two government-backed reports on New Zealand's climate future.

The New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is outlined in simple terms, including who pays and where the money goes, by Climate Explained - a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre.

Environmental activist and iwi leader, Mike Smith, has filed court proceedings against New Zealand's top carbon emitters for failing to protect the country against climate change, reports Stuff.

The New Zealand Government considered and rejected banning the import of fossil fuel vehicles from 2035 onward, new documents show, despite the Ministry of Transport supporting the move, reports Newsroom.


Australia has retained its position as the third largest issuer of Green bonds in the Asia Pacific region and has plenty of scope to expand supply, reports Nasdaq.


New Zealand requires a "significant uplift" in renewable generation investment if the country is to get anywhere close to its 2050 net-zero carbon target according to Meridian, reports the NZ Herald.


The climate crisis is an opportunity for creative thinking, but the values of architecture need a radical overhaul, reports the Guardian. There’s little point designing an energy efficient building if it takes decades or centuries to pay back the expenditure of energy that went into its construction.

Sustainability requires a change in mindset as it’s not just a process of replacing materials with green alternatives. Raconteur investigates if a circular economy can ever be the norm for mass construction.

The New Zealand Government has proposed a new National Urban Development Policy Standard which would override the Resource Management Act and direct Councils to allow cities to grow “up and out”, reports Politik. In response, Bernard Hickey, writing for Interest, says re-engineering our cities for continued strong population growth in a way that improves housing affordability and climate emissions requires massive investment in housing and transport infrastructure. The problem is that no one wants to pay for it.

Failure to repair defects is the biggest complaint after high house building costs as new data shows construction profits are among the highest of any industry sector, reports Stuff.


Anyone who has lived in the UK, Europe, or North America knows that New Zealand has some of the crappiest housing standards in the western world, reports Stuff.

Christchurch City Council is considering two options for fixing 930 uninsulated social housing units that are cold, damp and mouldy. It will also consider a third option of closing or replacing some or all of the substandard units, reports Stuff.

Stuff compares the costs of building a new home in NZ and Australia. Construction costs in NZ's main centres have increased by more than 30 per cent over the past 10 years.

New Zealand is a nation of home improvers, with nearly half of renovators saying it’s important to do up their home to increase its value and sell, according to new research commissioned by Westpac.

Over 12,500 eligible households are on the waitlist for public housing, a new record in New Zealand, reports Stuff. The waitlist has more than doubled in the last two years, even as the Government has seriously stepped up its public housing build programme.


An innovative facade system developed by a Swiss company uses movable solar panels to generate electricity while at the same time allowing the right amount of sunshine or shade to suit weather conditions and internal use, reports Techxplore.

Around the world, builders are putting modern twists into ancient construction methods using hemp, reports Business Live. Hemp fields absorb carbon when they’re growing. After harvest, the crop continues to absorb greenhouse gases as it’s mixed with lime or clay.

A structural engineer says the Christchurch City Council should encourage new buildings to be constructed using timber, ahead of concrete and steel, as a way of reducing the city's emissions, reports Stuff.

Low carbon

New Zealand’s two supermarket chains have big plans to reduce their carbon emissions, reports Stuff.


Stuff talks to the director of 2040, a documentary screening in NZ cinemas about environmental solutions already at work around the world. They include sustainable power networks in Bangladesh that are uplifting communities and seaweed-growing platforms off the coast of the Philippines that encourage fish diversity and absorb carbon dioxide. A free screening of the doco in Auckland is included in the New Zealand programme for World Green Building Week.