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Guest feature: Building a greener future with the building for climate change programme

The building and construction sector needs to make changes if we are going to do our part to tackle emissions.

By Janet Blake, Manager System Strategy and Performance, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Hīkina Whakatutuki.

Building designed for climate change

Credit: Berkeley Lab CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The building regulator – Building Systems Performance (BSP) introduces us to the Building for Climate Change programme which outlines the shifting environment and expectations for those in the sector.

There are many standards available that can help meet requirements including those that improve energy efficiency and water use, adaptation to climate change, environmental management and natural hazard mitigation.

Change is inevitable, change is needed

The recent report from the intergovernmental panel on climate change made one thing clear – we must all act now to stop the earth from reaching irreversible temperatures. Our response must be visionary, we must act now for the long term, and we must ensure the transition is coordinated and equitable for all.

The building and construction sector is responsible for about 15 per cent of our country’s total emissions. This comes from the production and transport of building materials, the construction process, and the energy used once the structure is built. We are also responsible for approximately 50 per cent of all waste to landfill.

This means that if we are serious about mitigating the effects of climate change and achieving net zero emissions by 2050, the building and construction sector must be a core pillar in our response.

Together, we have the power to significantly reduce emissions and slow the rate of global warming, and at the same time ensure our buildings are warm, dry, healthy and resilient to the effects of the changing climate. The Building for Climate Change programme will play a key role in helping us realise this opportunity.

How we will do it

The Building for Climate Change programme aims to reduce emissions from constructing, operating and deconstructing buildings, and to make sure our buildings are prepared for the future effects of climate change.

Building for Climate Change programme - Building Performance(external link)

We will set targets for energy and water use and embodied carbon, and encourage those across the sector to look at innovative thinking about designing, building and operating buildings.

We have committed to support the path to low emissions by:

  1. transforming the operational efficiency of buildings by reducing the amount of energy and water buildings use, and improving ventilation and comfort. These improved efficiencies will, in turn, lead to lower emissions and warmer, drier, healthier buildings for New Zealanders.
  2. reducing embodied carbon emissions across a building’s whole life cycle – from the production of building materials, all the way through to construction waste and what happens to the building when it’s at the end of its life.
  3. looking at how buildings adapt to extreme weather events which are expected to occur more frequently as a result of climate change. We will focus on two key principles: not building in areas where climate change hazards are likely (e.g. subject to flooding) and ensuring design standards take into account our future climate (e.g. wind pressures and rainfall intensity).

As part of these plans, a series of performance-based emissions targets are being developed that the sector will have to keep under while they are designing and building. There will be a plan for tightening these targets over time to drive ongoing emissions reductions and innovation in design and construction.

In the long term, the programme will provide meaningful benefits for New Zealanders. The proposed changes will make sure New Zealand’s buildings are using as little energy and water as practical, and that they are warmer, drier and better ventilated. This means more money in people’s pockets due to lower energy bills, and healthier places for us all to work and live.

What we need from you

Success will require us to shift the way we think and operate across the entire sector. The mindsets of consumers who drive the market, and professionals who design and build buildings, will need to change to take climate change into account. Government will also need to change and adapt its approach to lead the way of the rest of the sector, and to ensure the transition to a lower-emissions future is equitable. No one can achieve this alone.

We know these changes, and the goal of the programme, will not be easy to achieve. It’s a big ask for energy efficiency and carbon emissions to become core considerations when building – just as important as safety and cost. We need everyone across the sector to be on board. It will be worth it to secure a future for the next generations of New Zealanders.

Start with standards

We encourage you to start thinking about ways for you to reduce emissions from building and construction activities from today. Be a part of the journey. There are many international standards that support consideration for energy efficiency or low carbon buildings, that don’t require reinventing the wheel. Just use the search facility in our web shop to see what’s available.