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Environment and zero-carbon research

Over their entire life cycles, buildings have significant effects on the environment, people and the economy. BRANZ research is contributing to shifting the construction industry to deliver net-zero carbon buildings in an affordable way.

A sustainable building is one where social and cultural needs are met, resources are more equally available to everyone and no irreversible damage to the environment is caused during its life cycle.

BRANZ research into the environmental impacts of buildings aims to provide solutions to mitigate negative effects on the environment, both now and in the future. Our research examines the entire life cycle of buildings, from extraction and production of materials, through design, construction and occupant behaviours to end of life.

Climate change and the transition to a zero-carbon built environment

BRANZ is working with partners to help the industry reduce greenhouse gas emissions and be better prepared to cope with the changes. The work comes under the umbrella of the Transition to a zero-carbon built environment programme. The aim of this programme is that, by 2050, the building and construction industry is delivering net-zero carbon buildings in an affordable way.

Whole-building whole-of-life framework

The purpose of the New Zealand whole-building whole-of-life framework is to provide information and resources to facilitate more consistent calculation of potential environmental impacts of New Zealand buildings across the building life cycle using a technique called life cycle assessment.

Current projects

BRANZ is working on several projects to examine and mitigate the negative impacts of buildings on the environment:

  • In collaboration with external parties, providing a robust method to determine the carbon budget of New Zealand’s residential building stock (and individual buildings) needed to meet New Zealand's 2050 commitments.
  • Material-based embodied carbon accounting and carbon budgeting for various building typologies, to meet New Zealand's 2050 commitments.
  • Field testing of low-carbon and low-cost water heating technologies and systems using renewables for residential application.
  • Developing a framework for New Zealand-based whole-house carbon and energy performance certificates, learning from overseas experiences.
  • Reviewing the national and international research and regulatory responses to the role of buildings in mitigating and adapting to climate change.
  • Providing a comparison of the cost-effectiveness of a range of building-level interventions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, using marginal abatement cost curves.
  • Longitudinal study on key sustainability-related aspects concerning new New Zealand detached housing, which includes energy and CO₂ aspects.
  • Examining how New Zealand building and construction businesses are preparing (or not preparing) to address climate change.
  • In collaboration with external parties, designing and building a low-carbon home.
  • Funding and mentoring PhD and master's students’ research into low-carbon building techniques.
  • Technical support for Eco Design Advisors - a council-based independent free advisory resource for designers, community groups and individuals to assist making lower-carbon decisions.
  • Technical support for New Zealand Green Building Council green rating tools.

Research and resources

We support industry with a range of resources including online design guides and construction details, calculation tools, field tests of promising technologies, study reports exploring international best practice and support for central and local government agencies.

Examples of work