As the New Zealand Green Building Council celebrates 10 years in the market, chief executive Andrew Eagles outlines new plans for transforming the country’s built environment.

We’ve seen some impressive examples of quality and sustainability in New Zealand’s built environment over the past decade – in fact, it’s becoming standard business practice.

And as the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a cocktail event in late November, I promised to help make it easier for people to create quality, sustainable buildings.

It’s been 10 years since NZGBC became a member of the World Green Building Council, after industry members decided to act on the growing desire to build more efficient, resilient buildings with reduced environmental impact. To date, the three rating tools NZGBC administers have made significant progress.

Green Star (for commercial builds) has certified more than 734,000 square metres of floor space across offices, schools, industrial buildings and other projects.

NABERSNZ has rated the energy performance of more than 522,580 sq m of office space, leading to greater efficiencies and cost savings.

Homestar, the residential rating tool for warmth, efficiency and sustainability, has 6400 registrations on its books, a 10-fold increase from mid-2015.

Although a 5 Green Star rating and ongoing NABERSNZ ratings are now standard in Auckland’s CBD, and Canterbury boasts a number of notable buildings, there’s still plenty of opportunity to use Green Star for a wider range of office buildings, and in the regions.

Having a certified rating tool sets a common standard of measurement and benchmarks for people to work towards, which we know is really valuable. So we’ve set ourselves a goal of making it 30 per cent easier to get a green building rating. This doesn’t mean relaxing the standards we encourage industry to reach for – instead we’re looking at ways to lower costs, streamline audit paperwork and more regularly update our tools to reflect shifts in building practices.

Other developments in the works include widening the scope of NZGBC’s rating tools to include performance and communities tools. We expect to announce details of this in the first half of 2017.

Insight on the night

We were delighted to host the chair of the World Green Building Council, Tai Lee Siang, during our 10-year celebrations. He told those at the anniversary event that they should be proud of being part of this movement – and to set benchmarks high, because there’s no time to waste.

It’s also crucial that we avoid making the mistakes of many Asian cities, Lee Siang said, and encourage others to collectively shape our cities rather than be shaped by them.

“When you love something, you sustain it. We need to create cities that people love so they are sustained.”

Jasmax principal Tim Hooson noted how sustainability issues are at the core of who we are as New Zealanders – so much so that sometimes we take them for granted, until something happens to remind us of their importance.

“Resilience is a key component to any sustainability outcome. Recent seismic events have shown us how critical our infrastructure and built environment are to our country,” he said.

Working more closely with others

NZGBC is also in discussions to work more closely with other building standards, such as Passive House and the Living Building Challenge.

We all want the same things: to improve health outcomes for Kiwis and the quality of New Zealand’s building stock, and fundamentally change the way construction is done. The more we work together and speak to industry, and local and national government, with one voice, the quicker we’ll make progress.

Supporting and championing change at national and local government levels will also become a larger focus. We’ve seen some councils providing support for quality builds, through higher density allowances and lower development contributions, and we encourage all councils to follow suit.

The gains of the past 10 years have been achieved while juggling the challenges of the Global Financial Crisis, the Canterbury earthquakes, and ongoing cost and project pressures.

As an industry, we’re in a strong place to build on this progress and transform the market. Green buildings are proven to have healthier indoor environments and lower running costs, and be more attractive long-term investments. Why wouldn’t you want to build better?

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