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  Climate change and the built environment

The construction industry has responsibilities around the mitigation of and adaptation to the impacts of climate change. Mitigation involves reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to the problem. Adaptation means designing and constructing new buildings and renovating old buildings so that they can better cope with more intense rainfall, floods and stronger winds.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's 2015 report Preparing New Zealand for rising seas: Certainty and uncertainty estimated that about 9,000 New Zealand homes stand less than 0.5 m above spring high tide levels – at great risk of rising seas and flooding. Cities with large areas that are particularly low-lying include Napier, Lower Hutt, Christchurch and Dunedin, but smaller centres such as Whakatane are also affected. There are 43,680 homes less than 3 metres above mean high water spring – still at risk.

Flooded homes can become unliveable for long periods – for example, when sewage contaminates stormwater. Six months after the Edgecumbe floods in 2017, 500 homes could still not be reoccupied.

Insurance companies have begun adjusting policies and prices to reflect climate risks. Spokespeople have said that, because rising sea levels cannot be considered as accidents or unforeseen events, resulting damage is not insurable.

Other pages in this web resource

Climate change

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the construction industry

BRANZ recommendations for climate action

Transition to a net-zero carbon built environment

BRANZ tools and resources for climate action