That is not just a building

04 December 2019

That is not just a building.

That is iron mined from the earth, forged into steel, using tonnes of energy and water to create. That is glass melted from liquid silicon dioxide at 1700 degrees Celsius, which I imagine requires at least a few joules of energy. That is concrete, and copper, and timber, and insulation, and fibreboard, and lots of plastic, all involving mountains of associated embodied emissions.

That is not just a building.

That is a construction operation that took months, if not years, of hard labour by a plethora of skilled workers, performing a mile-long coordinated list of tasks and jobs, and hours and hours of operating heavy mechanical machinery.

That is not just a building.

That is an energy hungry machine that requires electricity for operations for around 60 years, that can be used for an extraordinary amount of different things in its time, and withstand the wild weather that Mother Nature throws at it.

That is not just a building. That is amazing.

That is a space we have built, for ourselves, and for others, to thrive within.

Kia ora, my name is Kate Boylan and I was lucky enough to be named the Inaugural NZGBC Future Thinker of the Year 2019.

And sometimes I just look at a building and think. Damn.

How on earth did we create that?

But… that is not just a building.

That is a considerable source of embodied, construction, operational, maintenance, and end of life emissions. That is a pile of a wasted resources waiting for demo day if not deconstructed with care, or designed for reuse. That is a masterpiece that required PEOPLE at every stage of the process. And that of course is an opportunity to drive positive, sustainable change.

And we know this is an opportunity we must take:

Because currently the construction and operation of buildings is responsible for 20% of our countries domestic emissions

Because over a building’s 60 year life cycle, the embodied emissions from the structural and envelope materials account for 28% of their overall global warming potential

Because it is estimated that construction and demolition material waste may represent up to 50% of all waste generated in New Zealand

And we know that this opportunity is possible, we know how to do it, and we know the direction we must now follow, the NZGBC outlined this in their Zero Carbon Road Map for Aotearoa’s Buildings.

So now, I want to present to you a vision, an idea to further aid in this road trip.

Generation Z are skipping school and striking in the streets for climate action.
In the recent local election, the councillor cohort under 30 years old doubled. Millennials now make up a large percentage of the workforce and are proving very difficult to retain.
The younger generations, generally, want more from their day jobs, from their careers, they want purpose.

Now I appreciate this is not a new, novel idea, but what if we educated and inspired these younger generations within our workforce. Our budding architects, property developers, engineers, contractors, designers, and trades people. What if we showed them how to care about green buildings?

To care about creating buildings that are sustainable and regenerative instead of damaging to our natural environment. Buildings that are more than a building, buildings that give back to the community and have a positive impact on the surrounding environment.

Future Thinkers provides this industry with that opportunity.

And in 2020 that’s exactly what we want to start doing.

We want to work with you, members, friends, and supporters of the green building council to create a space for the younger generation within our industry to learn.

To build an understanding of the current state of our industry, including the scary truths and challenges, but equally the opportunities, trends, and latest developments. Let us create a space for young people within our industry to find opportunity, purpose, and to see more than just a building.

2020 will be the year of the Future Thinkers.

Future Thinkers is a network for young professionals and students to connect with the green building industry, both in NZ, and globally.

Future Thinkers will provide a space for non-judgemental learning about all things green and sustainability within the building industry. We will aim to organise monthly events and catch ups across the country to educate and inspire the younger generation of our workforce.

It will provide an invaluable opportunity to meet other like-minded building industry yo-pros, and help create new relationships and foster inter-industry collaboration.

We will set up a Future Thinkers Leadership team, with representation from multiple centres across the country. This Leadership team will work closely with the green building council, and give the group direction and accountability moving forward.

And we would love your support.

Let’s get the young people in your workplace involved and inspired. Let’s get you involved and inspired, you are the industry experts after all, and the ones who give enough of a damn to be here, supporting the green building council, and supporting a more sustainable future.

We already have events lined up for the first few months of 2020, so please encourage all of your young professionals to get involved with Future Thinkers next year. More information will be available shortly, so watch this space.

And on similar, final, note; the Future Thinker of the year 2020 award applications are open on December the 12th, so please encourage the young, environmentally-minded, thought leaders from your business to apply.

For me, being named the Future Thinker of the year has been the gift that keeps on giving.

It has raised my profile and opened up many doors of opportunity. I mean, it’s given me the platform I’m standing on here today, and I would highly recommend giving it a go.

A huge thank you again to the principal sponsors, Bayleys, and the Greenstone group for enabling this to happen, and of course to the New Zealand Green Building Council for their support, belief, and partnership.

Ngā mihi and Meri Kirihimete

More information: