Story by Keelan McCafferty, 23 Nov 2016, 12:08:09
Photography by N/A
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As the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) marks its 10th anniversary, it’s clear that incorporating sustainability into buildings is becoming standard business practice.
NZGBC celebrates a decade of quality building – so what’s changed?
Building green has entered the mainstream in New Zealand. As the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) marks its 10th anniversary, it’s clear that incorporating sustainability into buildings is becoming standard business practice.
Ten years ago, NZGBC became a member of the World Green Building Council, after industry members decided to act on the growing desire to build more efficient buildings with a reduced environmental impact. NZGBC immediately set about improving the quality and sustainability of New Zealand’s built environment. To date, the three rating tools it administers have made significant progress:
- Green Star has certified more than 734,000sqm of quality, lower-impact floor space across offices, schools, industrial buildings and other projects.
- NABERSNZ has rated the energy performance of more than 522,580sqm 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 ten-fold increase from mid-2015.
THEN AND NOW
In 2007, NZGBC introduced Green Star, an independent rating tool for commercial buildings, in consultation with industry. The developers, architects, engineers and other professionals who worked on New Zealand’s first Green Star projects faced a range of challenges.
Geoff Wicks, now a project leader at Beca, led the pre-construction and design teams on one of the first two buildings to achieve a Green Star rating: Auckland’s 80 Queen St, which received a 5 Green Star Design ‘New Zealand excellence’ rating in October 2007. The building is now occupied by Deloitte and BNZ.
“Owner/developer Brookfield Multiplex and anchor tenant BNZ were keen to get a rating, but we needed a lot of conversations with the construction-industry supply chain to achieve this. The supply chain was aware to some degree of green buildings but had never delivered one; there just weren’t the systems and paperwork to demonstrate compliance when we first started. We knew from overseas markets that getting that independent Green Star certification was valuable, though, so we kept working at it,” Wicks says.
“Some of the features the building incorporated back then – low-flow water fittings, indoor air-quality monitoring – are now fairly standard in current design and construction practice. It’s just what we do now. The construction ‘cost premium’ for a green building back in the mid-2000s has all but disappeared, as all designs now incorporate environmental features. Operationally these buildings are more cost effective and that makes good business sense, as well as reducing our impact on the environment.”
Luke Manson, director at property developer Mansons TCLM, agrees. “Mansons TCLM consistently target Green Star ratings for their developments as it substantiates and measures the environmental benefits of the design or building. Overseas investors appear to have a good understanding of Green Star rated buildings and are increasingly demanding that buildings they purchase are Green Star certified. Green Star allows investors and building occupants to demonstrate corporate responsibility in a tangible way.”
GREEN STAR AND NABERSNZ CONTRIBUTE TO CHANGES IN THE INDUSTRY
NZGBC’s chief executive, Andrew Eagles, says the advent of Green Star has contributed to some key changes in the building and construction industry over the last 10 years.
“Firstly, having a certified rating tool set a common standard of measurement and benchmarks for people to work towards. It got people in the industry talking about what was possible. Membership has grown from 31 to 475 companies, and to date we’ve issued 133 Green Star ratings,” he says.
“We’ve noticed a shift in the materials industry, in particular in timber and carpet – it’s now far easier to find products that have a certified eco-label, and low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) options to contribute to a healthier indoor environment. That shift was already occurring, but when Green Star project teams began requesting certified products, it helped encourage demand here.”
Eagles adds, “We’ve also seen a growth in projects that combine active and passive design strategies. Sophisticated building management systems help owners and tenants monitor their mechanical services and reduce energy use. Passive design maximises daylight and natural ventilation to reduce heating and cooling costs, and also includes indoor greenery to contribute to a healthier, more productive environment. In fact, research from the Harvard School of Public Health found workers in certified green buildings perform 26 per cent better on cognitive function tests than workers in non-certified ones.”
Tracking and improving a building’s energy performance is also becoming increasingly popular, for both tenants and owners. The NABERSNZ rating tool, introduced in 2013, is used to measure and reduce energy use year on year, and Eagles says building owners are using it to improve building performance because of the appeal it holds for blue-chip tenants and investors.
There are now 53 buildings rated or re-rated, amounting to more than 522,580 square metres of office space. And the payback is quite clear: Auckland’s Zurich House has improved its energy performance by a massive 45 per cent over the last three years.
Saatyesh Bhana, asset manager for Argosy Property Limited, says, “NABERSNZ is a useful tool for us to understand how energy is used in the building and to be able to improve the building’s performance. By using this information, the property manager can focus their energy-management strategy to make operational improvements and reduce energy consumption. After the Te Puni Kokiri upgrade, the management team saved the occupier $80,000 per year and also reduced their carbon footprint.”
Eagles adds, “In Australia, a 2011 study found a building with a five-star NABERS rating attracted a rent premium of between four and 21 per cent. Consultants here have told us Green Star and NABERSNZ helped clients figure out what to ask for in order to make sure they get a building that’s better to be in.”
Though 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 are still plenty of challenges for NZGBC to tackle. Eagles says the Global Financial Crisis, the Canterbury earthquakes, cost and project pressures, and a culture of building “cheap and fast” mean there’s still plenty of opportunity to upgrade to 4 Green Star level for mid-tier office buildings and in the regions.
IMPROVING KIWI HOMES WITH HOMESTAR
New Zealand’s old, cold and damp housing stock has cost the country dearly over the years – and that’s something Homestar is playing a part in changing.
Launched in 2010, the rating tool certifies the warmth, quality, health and sustainability of Kiwi homes. A home rated 6 Homestar or above will have better thermal performance and moisture control than a new home built to Building Code, as well as lower operating costs.
Eagles says the recent growth in developers using Homestar has been exciting: 770 homes have Homestar ratings, and a further 5630 dwellings are in the process of getting a rating, which amounts to 10-fold growth since mid-2015. Three homes – one in Papamoa and two in Christchurch – have reached a perfect 10 score, and this year Homestar featured on The Block NZ.
“Once developers tried Homestar and understood what goes into a rating, they realised it’s just a better way of building that creates more desirable homes. Homestar is being used by industry leaders Fletcher Living, Willis Bond, Panuku Development Auckland, Housing New Zealand and many others.”
NZGBC LOOKS AHEAD
There’s a lot of work happening to build on this solid foundation. NZGBC is currently developing a suite of lower-cost, simpler rating tools; their scope will also be widened to include performance and communities. Eagles says they expect to announce details in the first half of next year.
“The construction sector is enjoying a boom at the moment. It’s exciting that so many companies are working with us to ensure the homes and buildings they’re delivering and managing will create a legacy of quality, productive places for New Zealanders, for years to come,” he says.
“The need for earthquake-resilient buildings is fresh in our minds too, and last year we began rewarding project teams that implement seismic mitigation strategies through Green Star’s Earthquake Resilience Innovation Challenge.
“It’s also exciting to see some councils providing support for quality builds, through higher density allowances and lower development contributions.”
Terri Wills, CEO of the World Green Building Council, says, “I’d like to congratulate New Zealand Green Building Council on a decade of defining work on green buildings.
“NZGBC is making a significant impact in transforming buildings in New Zealand, across an increasingly broad range of projects. They have consistently been at the forefront of the global green building movement, and as an active player in our Asia Pacific Regional Network, their work is vital to ensure a sustainable future for the region and beyond.”
Eagles adds, “Exemplar buildings are constantly setting new benchmarks, and the visionaries behind them are influencing the rest of the industry. We’re grateful to them, and to those who first got together and decided that a green building council in New Zealand was an idea whose time had come. New Zealand is better off because of all those people.”