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Building Act changes put the environment at the heart of how we build

Wednesday, December 7, 2022   Posted in: Signatory Notice Board By: Administrator With tags: built environment, environmental health, policy, legislation

Beehive media release: 5th December 2022

The Government is taking action to reduce waste and lower emissions from the building and construction sector in significant Building Act amendments announced today.

“This Government is proud to put the environment at the heart of how New Zealand builds. By enabling mandatory energy performance rating requirements for buildings, and waste minimisation plans for construction and demolition projects, these proposals will help us to build a better future for generations of New Zealanders,” says Minister for Building and Construction Megan Woods.

“We know to expect more severe weather events, such as heatwaves and flooding due to climate change, and we know that it will impact tenants and building owners. These proposals provide a clear signal that considering climate resilience, and the emissions impact of our buildings is a core responsibility of the sector.

“Energy performance ratings are already mandatory for some buildings in Australia and are popular with many building owners and the wider sector, because they help improve understanding of energy use while acting as an extra incentive for making better energy efficiency decisions.

“Energy performance ratings could help lower energy bills and reduce costs, by providing building users with the tools to better manage peak electricity demand. A higher rating could even increase a property's value or rentability. One study found an 8 per cent increase in asset value of energy performance rated buildings over those without ratings,” said Megan Woods.

The Bill also proposes mandatory waste minimisation plans being required during building and construction activities.

“By some estimates, construction waste accounts for up to half of all the waste which goes to landfill nationally. Having a reduction plan in place will encourage us to confront the amount of waste produced on-site, design with waste in mind, re-use building materials, incentivise recycling, and increase the uptake of local waste diversion schemes,” Megan Woods said.

“Reducing waste can also deliver cost savings during the build process by reducing over-ordering of building materials and in turn reducing waste disposal costs. An Auckland University of Technology study found that around $31,000 of building materials are wasted in every house build.

“Designing with waste in mind and reducing the over-ordering of building supplies will also help mitigate short-term challenges such as supply chain constraints as it frees up building materials rather than converting them to waste.

“These waste minimisation plan requirements support the Government’s work to transform the waste system with a new national waste strategy, as well as our investment in construction and demolition resource recovery infrastructure,” said Megan Woods.

Early analysis indicates that these proposals could support emissions reductions of 12.6 Mt CO2-e between now and 2050. For comparison this equates to nearly 19,000 plane trips between Wellington and Auckland per year until 2050.

Background to the changes

Buildings make up nearly 9.4 per cent of our domestic emissions, through the energy they use directly and from their embodied carbon (emissions that come from the production, transport, construction, replacement and disposal of construction materials and products used throughout the life of a building).

The measures proposed in the Bill would be implemented through regulations, which will be consulted on publicly and phased in from 2024 onwards.

These changes set the foundation for future climate change work outlined in the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) - released by the Ministry for the Environment on 31st May 2022.

Under the ERP, building and construction initiatives have five key objectives:

  • Accelerating the shift to low carbon building;
  • Reducing the embodied carbon of construction materials;
  • Shifting energy use from fossil fuels;
  • Improving building energy efficiency; and
  • Establish foundations for future emissions reduction.