NZGBC senior technical coordinator Clare Gallagher

The newly released New Zealand Green Building Council’s Green Star v3 rating tool will encourage a broader education on the value of sustainability, with two new innovation categories focused on boosting local research and knowledge.

NZGBC senior technical coordinator Clare Gallagher said the innovation category of Market Intelligence and Research was inspired by insights in McGraw Hill’s Smart Market Research Report of 2014, which found using industry peers as a resource was one of the most trusted information streams in the property sector.

“We want to encourage people in the industry to create better, more reliable research for others,” Ms Gallagher said.

“We want that information developed locally in New Zealand using real experiences.”

She said it was also about capturing more data to understand the effects of green building and how the buildings impact on people.

The Marketing Excellence category is also education-driven, and aims to reward projects for helping broaden the wider community and building occupants’ understanding about what sustainable buildings are doing that’s different to business as usual.

Ms Gallagher said that by creating a greater level of engagement through embedding the sustainability message into marketing for projects, the NZGBC hoped to stimulate more tenants to want green buildings and more building owners to upgrade their buildings.

There are now a total of eight innovation challenges projects can aim for, with the others comprising adaptation and resilience; contractor education; culture, heritage and identity; financial transparency around measurable costs and benefits; material life cycle impacts; and social return on investment.

Project teams can also propose innovation challenges around sustainability issues they would like to address.

Ms Gallagher said there were two broad types of project teams pursuing Green Star that could benefit from the changes. The first are the experienced teams that have completed a number of projects and are now looking for more ways to get all the things they have been doing recognised by the tool.

The second group, she said, were the teams without prior Green Star experience, for whom the innovation challenges would hopefully provide them with a pathway to gaining added points that were low risk.

There are currently 49 projects that are registered to achieve a Green Star rating from the NZGBC, 32 aiming for a Green Star Built rating, and 17 for a Green Star Design rating.

The sector with the most projects attempting to meet the benchmarks is the education sector, with 19 projects registered. There are 16 commercial projects using the Office tool, six projects using the Interiors tool, three using the Industrial tool and five using a Custom tool.

Ms Gallagher said the education tool projects included many primary schools in rural and regional areas, as the government has incentivised aiming for Green Star by bolstering project budgets for schools that do so.

She said this was also valuable in terms of the educational value for contractors outside the major cities regarding green building techniques.

Green Star was launched in NZ seven years ago, and Green Star v3 is the first major review since 2009.

Other major changes around the innovation category include increased flexibility and more encouragement in other parts of the tool to pursue possible innovation pathways from the beginning of the project process.

Ms Gallagher said that in many cases the innovation points had been pursued in later stages, as ways of gaining extra points. V3 meant they were more part of the fundamental approach, she said.

The number of points available in the Innovation category has doubled, and project teams can also gain recognition using a credit from another World Green Building Council member rating tool (subject to NZGBC approval).

The energy category has also been updated, to give it more alignment with the requirements of NABERSNZ, so a project that completes Green Star is in a good position to achieve a NABERSNZ rating after a year of occupancy.

In the materials category, changes include a requirement that 90 per cent of timber used in a project must be FSC-certified, and greater flexibility in the Concrete and Steel Credits. A Materials calculator has also been created by the NZGBC to simplify the documentation for these points. The points have been reduced for using best practice PVC or a PVC substitute.

A new credit has been introduced for potable water that consolidates previous credits and recognises a wider range of water efficiency strategies.

The NZGBC has also streamlined documentation.

“There has been low achievement in some Innovation credits because projects didn’t address all the criteria, or because more explanation was needed on how to achieve the credits. We’re reducing the risk and cost involved by providing more information and making the process more collaborative,” NZGBC chief executive Alex Cutler said.

“Green Star v3 consolidates the smaller improvements we’ve made to the tool since 2009, and offers flexibility to move with the market and aid future reviews. Green Star now acknowledges a broader range of ways to demonstrate sustainability, and we’re excited about how project teams will use the tool to create inspiring, world-leading sustainable buildings.”

Low level of knowledge

A study report released this year by BRANZ highlights the low level of knowledge of the benefits and value of green building in the NZ property sector, particularly in the residential building arena.

Valuing Sustainability and Resilience Features in Housing showed that residential builders generally did not provide information to clients around sustainability.

“Builders’ views on how much they should guide their clients on sustainability choices was mixed, but predominantly tended toward an agnostic view, simply delivering what the client wanted. Most believed clients would overwhelmingly choose better quality kitchens and bathrooms over sustainability features, given budget limitations,” the researchers said.

“Most builders did not have much independent advice to provide clients who asked about sustainability features, instead pointing them to manufacturers’ datasheets or independent consultants.”

The researchers also interviewed real estate agents and valuers about the financial value sustainability features could add to a home. The REAs and valuers perceived some value in solar hot water systems and solar power systems, but priced their contribution to the home’s value at less than the replacement cost of the systems.

The researchers, Roman Jaques, David Norman and Ian Page, will be undertaking a second stage of research that will involve developing datasheets or tools about the value of sustainability and resilience features for builders, REAs and valuers. There are also plans to work with partners to deliver a pilot training program for stakeholders.