Green building compliance
Let's step up the pace

Commercial building developers and owners in New Zealand require greater levels of guidance to become more energy efficient, according to a leading industry representative body.

The New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) has released a report asking for more direction on what its members and those with an interest in the commercial property sector can do to deliver zero carbon buildings.

The report identified that while the initial necessary regulatory infrastructure needed to address the country’s climate response had been established, the ensuing steps were now required to keep momentum up.

“This includes passing the Zero Carbon Act, creation of the Climate Change Commission (CCC), creation of the Building for Climate Change (BfCC) programme, and commitment to releasing an Emission Reduction Plan,” says the New Zealand Green Building Council report.

“The most equitable way to tackle the carbon pollution of our buildings, and improve New Zealanders’ wellbeing, is to push energy efficiency into every corner of the economy.”

Commercial buildings impact climate change in two ways - the first when construction materials such as steel or concrete are produced, while the second is when the building uses energy for everyday operations such as heating and air-conditioning, lighting, water, and the treatment of waste products.

Official estimates are that New Zealand’s built environment makes up around 20 percent of this country’s carbon footprint. The NZGBC report said the Government needed to enact its election promise to build to a 5 or 6 Green Star rating - or equivalent certification standard – for Government-funded construction projects, while simultaneously increasing the pace of its Building for Climate Change programme.

The release of the New Zealand Green Building Council report is extremely timely – virtually coinciding with the recently-held 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) summit held in Glasgow at the beginning of November 2021.

The COP26 summit brought together global leaders and representatives for discussions on how to accelerate reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“The simplest step is implementing a Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) Program, as in Australia. This has delivered significant savings for Australian businesses and reduced carbon emissions. It would provide additional transparency and large emission reductions for New Zealand buildings,” said the NZGBC review.

The report has drawn public comment from one of New Zealand’s biggest commercial property owners - NZX-listed Argosy Property Limited. Argosy chief executive Peter Mence said that ignoring sustainability and environmental issues was not an option.

“It is astonishing that in this time of climate emergency there is no mandated requirement to build a Green Star rated building, and there remains inadequate focus on embodied carbon,” he said.

"We have safety requirements for importing cars, and we have exhaust emission requirements, but we don't do this with buildings. Any new or upgraded building ought to be green, and meet energy efficient standards.

"Climate change is a big issue… I would say even bigger than the (Covid-19) pandemic. The country is only about 10 percent along the way of where it needs to be in the green building revolution."

Mence said New Zealand’s commercial property sector - led by the Property Council New Zealand – should be considered as a key partner and enabler of change in speeding up the energy efficiency building process.

Argosy manages some $2billion worth of commercial property in this country – of which 23 percent meets the internationally recognised sustainability Green Star rating system. The company is aiming to lift this percentage to 50 percent by 2031 among its 35 industrial, 16 office, and three large format retail properties.

"There are strong economic benefits in going green. We've found you get an improved rate of return through better rentals, happier tenants, less employee absenteeism, longer leases, and fewer vacancies," said Mence.

"The property industry needs to play its part in helping the country achieve these emission goals.”

Fellow leading commercial property owner/manager, Goodman, has also taken charge of its own response to energy efficiency practices across its portfolio. The company – which has been tracking its greenhouse gas emission levels since 2009 – has been assessed under the Toitū carbon zero programme.

Goodman chief executive officer John Dakin said, “We are now proudly carbon neutral. Certification reflects the priority placed on reducing our environmental footprint and the need for positive action to help mitigate the impacts of climate change.”

“We’ve set targets for the future and are actively working to minimise emissions from our property portfolio and operational activities. It’s making us a more sustainable business and delivering better outcomes for all our stakeholders.”