News digest: Big milestone for green building, history is made with Zero Carbon Bill, over 300,000 homes affected by damp

11 November 2019

Photo by Fleur on Unsplash

There are now more than 100,000 commercial developments around the world certified by the LEED green building rating system, the climate emergency presents major new challenges for architects, New Zealand’s Zero Carbon Bill receives unanimous support and will become law, scientists warn of untold suffering due to the climate crisis, and more than 300,000 New Zealand homes are affected by damp. These stories and more in our regular round up of green building and climate change news from here and around the world.

Green buildings

The US Green Building Council is celebrating a new milestone, announcing it has surpassed 100,000 registered and certified LEED commercial projects around the world. These buildings and interior spaces are using the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system to promote occupant health, address energy and water usage, decrease waste, meet Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) goals and provide better lives.

While architects may feel proud of their efforts in gaining ‘green’ credentials for new projects, the climate emergency presents a major new challenge. This demands a fundamental change in thinking to reduce resource consumption in building and construction– the highest (40 per cent) of any sector, reports The Asset.

And, the founding director of the US Green Building Council was in NZ recently promoting the next shift for sustainability, reports Architecture Now. Regenerative design asks designers to identify and care for systems where they live and work, to co-develop with their surrounding environments – both the natural and the built.

Carbon neutral buildings will need to be the norm by 2030 if NZ is to hit the Zero Carbon target by 2050, writes Marty Verry, CEO of the Red Stag group of companies in Stuff. Red Stag have investments in forestry, wood processing, CLT, prefabrication and property development. He says using timber is the climate friendly alternative to concrete and steel that, combined, account for an estimated 13 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The BBC reports on progress on Dubai's Museum of the Future, one of the most challenging construction projects ever attempted. The building, scheduled to be completed late in 2020, is aiming for a LEED Platinum rating. It will be equipped with advanced building control solutions, greywater recycling systems and regenerative drive lifts, while its power needs will be met through photovoltaic solar arrays located offsite.

Stuff takes a look at a new Hamilton home built to Passive House standards and a modest budget.The NZ Herald visits a similar home with a much larger budget in Te Awamutu.

Climate change

The Zero Carbon Bill which will set the framework for New Zealand to reach net zero emissions by 2050 will become law, making Aotearoa the first country to unanimously pass climate change legislation of this type, reports Newsroom. Rod Oram writing for Newsroom says we should celebrate Parliament’s passing of the Bill before we get down to the hard task of using it to play our role in tackling the global climate crisis.

The world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless there are major transformations to global society, according to a stark warning from more than 11,000 scientists, reports the Guardian.

National Geographic reports the 2030 targets for carbon emission made by most countries aren’t nearly enough to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, according to a panel of world-class climate scientists. Their report, “The Truth Behind the Paris Agreement Climate Pledges,” warns that by 2030, the failure to reduce emissions will cost the world a minimum of $2 billion per day in economic losses.

Stuff reports sea level rise could be affecting the homes of around 240,000 New Zealanders by the end of the century in a possible worst-case scenario, according to US researchers.

New Zealanders born today will likely end up knowing this country as a place where homes are uninsurable, iconic landscapes are unrecognisable and mosquitoes carry serious disease, reports RNZ.

NZ is partnering with the US in a satellite mission to measure methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. NZ has pledged $26 million towards the project and will provide the mission control base. The Spinoff has a cheat sheet explaining the details.

Investment

The Sustainable Finance Forum has released its first report on "greening" the financial system, saying the country must aim for sustainable prosperity while reversing the decline in our natural resources, reports Stuff. One of the report's authors, EY's Climate Change and Sustainability Services Director Pip Best, tells the NZ Herald that a significant opportunity exists for New Zealand businesses to tap the growing pool of fundslooking to invest in our 1.5 degree future.

Apple has just issued a $2.2 billion "Green Bond" offering in Europe, with the proceeds devoted to global initiatives to lower carbon emissions and other environmentally conscious programmes, reports Apple Insider.

Energy

Lincoln University has become the first New Zealand university to adopt commercial scale solar energy as it unveils plans to eliminate coal by 2025, RNZ reports. It is investing $8 million into renewable energy and has partnered with Meridian Energy.

The International Energy Agency has warned that the global rate of progress on energy efficiency is slowing, with global primary energy intensity improving by only 1.2% in 2018 – the slowest rate since the start of the decade, reports Renew Economy.

Newsroom takes a close look at power production by nuclear fusion and what it might have to do with New Zealand.

And, The Spinoff talks to an Australian physicist who is working in New Zealand on ways to make solar technology more affordable.

Construction

New legislation aimed at improving the government's battered building products quality assurance scheme, CodeMark, have come into force, reports RNZ.

Items stripped from buildings due to be demolished as part of the Auckland City Rail Link’s construction will be shipped to cyclone-hit communities in Tonga next month, reports Stuff.

Housing

More than one in five NZ homes are damp some or all of the time, according to stats from the 2018 Census. It showed 318,891 homes were affected by damp - more than the total combined number of occupied houses in the Canterbury and Otago regions, reports RNZ.

Meanwhile Newsub reports landlords in NZwill not be able to rent out damp, mouldy homes from 1 July 2021 when new Health Homes Standards are introduced.

New Zealanders are starting to realise that the standards set by the NZ Building Code will deliver an average home but not a great one, says builder and television personality Peter Wolfkamp. He says some home builders are opting to exceed those basic standards to build higher performing homes that are easier to heat and cheaper to run, reports the ODT.

In the second of a two-part series about building smarter, Architecture Now explores prefabricated multi units and high-performing homes.