Building a sustainability focus

Sustainability has been an emerging trend in the industry and WSP’s Kezia Lloyd, Head of Specialist Services, says 2020 will be the year talk turns to action.  

Building a sustainability focus 

Prior to the passing of the Climate Change Amendment Act much of the focus was consumed by the New Zealand debate over whether to target emissions reduction to 1.5 or 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels.  Now that’s resolved we can get on to the important work of meeting the targets which will result in new certification requirements. 

In the built environment this will be particularly noticeable in building energy efficiency and the emissions associated with the construction process.

Whether commercial operators or local and central government asset managers, owners will be required to minimise the impact of the design, construction and maintenance of their investments. 

For example, the construction industry makes a significant contribution to our annual emissions as well as the operation of existing buildings. As my colleague Dr Paul Jaquin outlines in this article, while reinforced concrete is an excellent building material, its production is one of the largest contributors to the global CO2. 
In this piece, Peter O’Leary, WSP Head of Structures, says cross-laminated timber offers a legitimate alternative to concrete and can result in decreased construction time. This is reinforced (hah!) by modelling done by Naylor Love showing that an engineered timber structure can produce 90% less CO2 emissions than a traditional steel/concrete equivalent.

What will this look like? Well, in the Zero Carbon Road Map for Aotearoa’s Buildings, the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) is calling on government to commit to a number of initiatives. These include:

A 10-year timeframe to ensure all new buildings are zero energy under the Building Code by 2030. 
Require energy-efficiency labelling on existing buildings
Ensuring that the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, New Zealand Defence Force and Department of Corrections lead an all-of-government shift to verify their new buildings as sustainable and having lower embodied carbon from June 2020.

There are already some stunning examples of change in approach, much of it driven by local government. Auckland Council’s urban regeneration organisation, Panuku Development, has been awarded Green Star Community ratings for programmes in Henderson and Takapuna – a first in New Zealand. Queenstown Lakes District Council is replacing a landmark building in the Upper Clutha with one of the country’s first community facilities built and certified to Passive House standard. 

Fundamentally, the impact we can have in helping New Zealand reach these targets is more than just meeting certification requirements.

As designers and engineers, we need to be at the forefront of change; changing the construction of the development to reduce emissions, changing the way the building is maintained, changing the way our clients sell this to their customers and users, and finally encouraging and supporting healthy and sustainable lifestyle choices for users and occupants of their facilities. 

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