Ditching coal boilers is a no brainer and must be done throughout New Zealand

29 January 2020

Cutting out coal boilers and improving hospitals is an important step in slashing our building emissions but must be done throughout New Zealand, the Green Building Council says ahead of the Government’s infrastructure announcement today.

“The unhealthy amount of carbon pollution from buildings and construction is a burning issue. We’ve got to get our buildings free from that pollution if we’re going to achieve a healthier, cleaner Aotearoa,” the CEO of the New Zealand Green Building Council Andrew Eagles says.

“Our government is the biggest and most significant owner and occupier of buildings in the country and they should lead the charge to cleaner, greener buildings and construction. If they don’t, we’re never going to realise our zero carbon ambitions.

“The announcement today that eight schools with coal boilers and two hospitals will be upgraded is an important step. It’s recognition that how we’re powering and constructing our buildings needs to change.

“The fact that these simple improvements are stopping 3000 annual tonnes of carbon emissions shows how significant our energy and buildings are for our environment, and how quickly we can do better. They’re big polluters, imagine the huge step forward if fossil fuels were ditched entirely and buildings were built to a higher standard throughout New Zealand.”

The Northland District Health Board has replaced boilers run on diesel in three hospitals with electric heat pumps which are cleaner and 3.5 times more efficient. It’s saving $300,000 per year which can now be redirected to patient care.

“But to get all our buildings to zero carbon, there’s even more that government, alongside industry, should be achieving,” Andrew Eagles says.

“We’ve identified the significant milestones to pass on the road to decarbonise New Zealand’s buildings. These include an improved Building Code, significantly increased transparency around the energy efficiency of buildings, alongside the need for key government ministries and departments to lead a revolutionary shift in green buildings.”

“With some minor tweaks this policy could so much more for Aotearoa’s unhealthy buildings.

“When large capital investments are made it’s an opportunity to benchmark the energy efficiency of these buildings at the same time, helping to encourage other schools and buildings to improve as well.

“The Government’s proposed ban on new coal-fired boilers for most uses will help drive change. This major step is in line with the zero carbon roadmap for Aotearoa’s buildings and should be followed by a ban of gas and fossil fuels. This will benefit our health and our environment.”

The built environment is responsible for approximately 20 per cent of our country’s carbon footprint. Emissions from the construction sector have leapt 66 per cent in a decade. And constructing and renovating New Zealand buildings pumps out climate pollution equivalent to one million cars on the road every year. All of which means that New Zealand will not be able to hit the Government’s zero carbon goal without tackling emissions from the building and construction sector.