Building Green is right for our times

Friday 27 Aug 2021

Marty Verry: Building green - Stuart Nash on right side of climate history. The NZ Government is using its own procurement to show how to build green by using less high-emission materials like concrete and steel. The lobbyists from those sectors have attacked the move.

History will prove Stuart Nash right. In June, MBIE published a requirement that government departments must choose the lowest carbon option for any new buildings it procures, leases or funds.

The policy is primarily aimed at the carbon from the materials used, known as "Embodied Carbon". Embodied Carbon has become the big area of climate change focus for building designers and regulators globally because it counts for up to 20 per cent of CO2 emissions.

Because wood absorbs CO2 as it grows, and conversely steel and cement emit around 8 per cent of world emissions each, the policy was quickly labelled a "wood first" policy by steel and concrete professional lobbyists.

The NZ Government has a three-pronged attack. The first is to lead with its own building procurement policy. As mentioned, this has become a requirement of government departments effective immediately.

The second is to showcase a range of mass timber demonstration buildings in a PGP partnership with Red Stag. The first, a five-storey apartment building made primarily from cross-laminated timber, or CLT, demonstrated that the mass timber used had a lower overall project cost than the concrete and steel comparison designs. It also extracted 82 tonnes of upfront carbon from the atmosphere compared to the approximately 800 tonnes emitted by the steel and concrete options.

Want a building consent? Cut the carbon. The third is to regulate Embodied Carbon. This is pending under the "Building for Climate Change" regulation currently being consulted on. In future, designers will need to measure embodied carbon in a building and then demonstrate it comes in under regulated caps on carbon in order to get a building consent. This is the path many other countries are heading down.

Marty Verry is Group CEO and Chair of Red Stag Group. He is also a keynote speaker at the upcoming 6th Annual WoodWorks Conference & Exhibitions in Rotorua. Seats for this popular mass timber architecture and construction management event are close to selling out. Details on the event and programme can be found on the event website.

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Source: NZ Herald

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