New Zealand’s New Building Emissions Guidelines
New Zealand takes a life-cycle focus in bid to achieve near-zero building emissions by 2050.
Queenstown, New Zealand. Credit: Pixabay, Pexels
The New Zealand government has introduced an ambitious new Building for Climate Change program. The initiative aims to achieve near-zero building emissions by 2050 by focusing on embodied carbon impacts and materials efficiency as much as operational efficiency.
Two Ways to Measure Carbon
One of the key pillars of the program is the introduction of two new technical methodologies for carbon assessment: the Whole-of-Life Embodied Carbon Assessment and the Operational Efficiency Assessment.
The methodologies are based on internationally recognized standards — ISO 14067:2018 and ISO 16396:2014, respectively. By providing a consistent framework for measuring and reporting on building’s emissions of buildings they pave the way for future regulation.
1. Whole-of-Life Embodied Carbon Assessment
Whole-of-Life embodied carbon considers the emissions associated with the production, transportation, and installation of building materials, and the construction process. Its aim is to improve material efficiency and reduce the use of carbon-intensive materials. Strategies to reduce whole-life embodied carbon include using lower-impact and recycled materials, designing for deconstruction and reuse, and using renewable energy sources on construction sites.
For more low carbon design strategies, read our 10 Design Commandments for Reducing the Embodied Carbon of Buildings
The Whole-of-Life Embodied Carbon Emissions Reduction Framework by New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) sets out the strategic approach to this pillar of the program.
2. Operational Efficiency Assessment
This assesses the energy used to heat, light and cool a building throughout its lifetime. Operational efficiency includes measures such as improving insulation, using energy-efficient appliances, and installing renewable energy systems.
Credit: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), New Zealand Government, adapted from LETI
A Timeline for Embodied Carbon Limits
The New Zealand Government has a vision for embodied carbon limits to eventually become mandatory for all buildings. However, a phased approach is set out in the Whole-of-Life Embodied Carbon Emissions Reduction Framework to help the industry to adjust to the new requirements.
- Reporting: the first stage is for the whole-of-life embodied carbon of a new building to be reported only (in kg CO2-e/m2 of building)
- Embodied carbon caps: new buildings will then also need to meet a mandatory cap on their whole-of-life embodied carbon
- Increasing limits: the cap will be tightened over time to deliver increasing emissions reductions
As shown in Figure 2, public sector projects will be the first to be required to comply with the new rules. In addition, timescales and limits will be set in consultation with the construction sector to ensure they are achievable.
Figure 2: From reporting to caps — proposed timeline for increasing embodied carbon requirements
Credit: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, New Zealand Government
Financial Incentives for Low-carbon Construction
The New Zealand government is offering grants and subsidies to encourage the use of low-carbon materials and renewable energy systems in buildings. The government is also working with the industry to develop new standards and guidelines for sustainable building.
Despite still being in its early stages, the Building for Climate Change program is already having a positive impact. A recent report found that the average embodied carbon of new buildings in New Zealand has decreased by 10% since the program started in 2019.
…embodied carbon of new buildings in New Zealand has decreased by 10% since 2019
Read more about the Building for Climate Change program
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