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  Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the construction industry

Buildings primarily contribute to climate change impacts through:

  • the energy they use when the building is occupied
  • the greenhouse gas emissions from the extraction, processing, transport and installation of building materials and their maintenance
  • urban and landscape design and planning.

report from the New Zealand Productivity Commission notes that, while New Zealand's absolute contribution to global emissions is small, our per-person gross emissions are one of the highest among developed countries.

It has been estimated that buildings are directly and indirectly responsible for up to 20% of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions arise from manufacture and transport of the materials used in construction, use of fossil fuels for heating and cooking and use of electricity for space heating and cooling, water heating, lighting and plug loads, part of which is supplied using fossil fuels.

2016 Royal Society report found that greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced in New Zealand residential and commercial buildings through better energy management and improved minimum performance standards for appliances. 

Emissions reductions can also result from:

  • improving insulation levels
  • retrofitting existing building stock
  • integrating renewable energy systems
  • supporting innovative ‘green building' designs. 

The aim is to build net zero-carbon buildings - buildings whose greenhouse gas emissions over their lifecycle are within New Zealand's commitments to a net-zero carbon economy.

There are currently few economic incentives to encourage action and the New Zealand Building Code does not require buildings to be net-zero carbon. Even if the demand were there, the industry has significant gaps in skills and knowledge required to deliver net-zero carbon buildings.

Other pages in this web resource

Climate change

Climate change and the built environment

Transition to a zero carbon built environment

Programme objectives and projects 

BRANZ tools and resources for climate action