Building for Climate Change: Transforming operational efficiency and reducing whole-of-life embodied carbon

Submissions closed: 11 October 2020, 7pm

This is the first public consultation under the new Building for Climate Change programme – the building and construction sector’s contribution to New Zealand’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) seeks your views on our proposals to increase the operational efficiency of buildings, and to reduce the embodied carbon across the lifecycle of buildings as part of the Building for Climate Change programme.

See the "How to make a submission" section to have your say on the proposals.

Transforming operational efficiency

MBIE has set out 3 main objectives to increasing a building’s operational efficiency:

  1. reduce operational carbon emissions,
  2. reduce water use, and
  3. Improve the health and wellbeing of occupants by improving buildings’ indoor environmental qualities (IEQ).

These objectives can be met by:

  • Reducing the need for electricity, fossil fuels by:
    • Improving building thermal performance requirements so very little heating and cooling is needed.
    • Improving building services efficiency requirements so very little energy is used for lighting, hot water, ventilation and other systems.
  • Replacing fossil fuel use with electricity or other lower-carbon energy sources.
  • Improving the efficiency requirements of potable water systems.
  • Setting clear requirements for the IEQ of buildings (e.g. air temperature, humidity, ventilation, surface temperature, and daylight).

MBIE proposes to regulate operational efficiency through the following set of requirements at the building consenting stage:

  • An operational emissions cap per square metre per annum for buildings which would include:
    • A thermal performance requirement
    • A building services efficiency requirement
    • A potable water use requirement
    • A limit on the use of fossil fuels
  • A set of measurable requirements for indoor environmental quality.

The operational emissions cap and performance requirements will be reviewed and tightened at regular intervals to reach a final cap by 2035.

Operational emissions reporting, ongoing commissioning requirements and post occupancy evaluation for completed buildings is also being considered.

The framework will apply to new buildings, including housing, communal residential, communal non-residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.

As new buildings have yet to be built, they present an immediate and urgent opportunity to meet the objectives. However, the buildings that currently exist in 2020 are predicted to make up 65% of New Zealand’s building stock in 2050 and a similar proportion of emissions.  It is proposed that changes to existing buildings will be addressed in future work by the Building for Climate Change programme.

For more information about this framework, including how the operational carbon emissions of a building are calculated, and the full scope of the proposed changes, please read the full Transforming operational efficiency document.

Whole-of-life embodied carbon emissions reduction framework

A building’s embodied carbon is the emissions associated with the construction materials and products across the lifecycle of the building. It includes the emissions from producing, transporting, constructing, replacing and disposing of materials and products used in a building.

The amount of embodied carbon in a new building depends on:

  • The building’s size,
  • The amount and type of construction materials and products used,
  • The carbon emissions associated with these materials and products.

Some of the factors to be considered when looking to reduce embodied carbon emissions are:

  • Using our existing building stock efficiently and effectively,
  • Constructing buildings to be resilient and flexible to changing user needs, avoiding emissions from future rebuilds,
  • Ensuring performance requirements are realistic to avoid over-engineered buildings,
  • Reducing construction waste,
  • Increasing the longevity of buildings and construction materials and products,
  • Increasing the use of low carbon construction materials and products.

MBIE proposes to regulate the embodied carbon of buildings in New Zealand. In the initial stages, this will be done through mandatory reporting for building projects, to raise the Sector’s awareness of the embodied carbon impacts of their activities. The embodied carbon data collected will be stored in a national repository, to enable greater understanding of the relative impacts of different buildings. Then, once a sufficient level of Sector literacy and understanding is in place, the first set of embodied carbon caps for buildings will come into force. These caps will tighten over time according to a transparent schedule, to help New Zealand move towards its goal of being net carbon neutral by 2050.

For more information about this proposal, the approach and scope of the framework, and MBIE’s vision for 2050, please read the full Whole-of-life embodied carbon emissions reduction framework document.