Michelle Johansson

New Zealand architect Michelle Johansson recently departed her role as associate at JASMAX to set up her own consultancy, Johansson Group. The business is focused on raising standards in NZ’s design, construction and materials supply sectors.

The new company will offer services such as materials tracking sheets for Living Building Challenge projects, assisting with LBC and Declare applications, purchasing advice and product research, project managing LBC projects, undertaking materials tracking for projects and providing design advice to assist projects to meet LBC or Green Star guidelines.

Ms Johansson said there is a groundswell of support growing in NZ around green building, including manufacturers and suppliers that were pursuing Declare certification through the Living Futures Institute, and new projects attempting the Living Building Challenge. There was also momentum around making various degrees of green more mainstream through focusing on the materials element.

She is currently working with Masterspec, the national materials specification system, to develop information around Declare and LBC materials specifications that will be presented as part of a roadshow later this year.

The aim is to have a number of levels of information, from that applicable to designers or builders undertaking LBC projects, Homestar projects or Green Star projects, and a level of information that enables the small builder and small architect practice sectors to attain better than building code results in terms of sustainability.

“People might not want to or have the budget for the whole Green Star approach, and the client has to drive Home Star, so the better than code [level of information] will present the achievable, sensible things people can do to achieve best practice. And Declare is part of that,” Ms Johansson said.

“There’s a big section of the market [that are small practices and builders], and we don’t want to leave them stranded.

“Things move incrementally. First you give people a few tools to help them build better than normal, then the next time they think to themselves, ‘I’ve heard of this Home Star, let’s give that a go’, and then the next time they [might] try Green Star, and after that, the LBC.”

A new website will provide an index of both locally-made products with Declare certification now available in NZ and also suppliers that are importing products made overseas that carry the certification,

The suppliers will include several new Declare NZ-based manufacturer participants including Winstone Wallboards, which hasobtained certification for a plasterboard product, Resen Paints and Autex, an insulation manufacturer.

“There needs to be a pushback to put [materials] right at the beginning of a project,” Ms Johansson said.

“It needs to be in there when people are tendering [for a builder] that they will be wanting to meet LBC guidelines [or other sustainability benchmarks]”

Ultimately, she says that if research into materials is carried out to “the Nth degree” and consultants like herself help gain world coverage for sustainable and Declare certified materials, “it will be a doddle to do a Living Building – or any good green building.”

“In fact, [ideally] people won’t be able to build anything else.”

Her work building awareness of Declare in NZ and on the Tuhoe Building, which has registered for the LBC, saw her awarded a Living Building Challenge Hero Award at the 2015 Living Future Institute Conference in the US in April.

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