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Transition to a zero-carbon built environment


The programme vision is to provide research support for an industry-led transition to a zero-carbon built environment through decarbonising across the whole building life cycle and encouraging industry leadership and decision making to manage climate change mitigation.

Climate change has big implications for the building industry. It has been estimated that buildings are directly and indirectly responsible for up to 20% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions.

As part of the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, New Zealand has made a number of commitments. These are the key ones:

  • The Paris Agreement - a United Nations initiative that commits us to achieving a 30% reduction of our 2005 greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The agreement also aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions between 2050 and 2100.
  • The Climate Change Response Act 2002 - a New Zealand law amended in 2019 with a commitment to reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases (except methane from plants and animals) to zero by 2050.

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.

Aim and vision of the programme

The aim of the BRANZ Transition to a zero-carbon built environment programme is that, by 2050, the building and construction industry is delivering net-zero carbon buildings in an affordable way.

The programme vision is to provide research support for an industry-led transition to a zero-carbon built environment through:

  • decarbonising across the whole building life cycle
  • encouraging industry leadership and decision making to manage climate change mitigation.

Collaborative evidenced-based approach

Engagement with stakeholders has identified a number of key needs:

  • Solid evidence - we need science to help drive policy and solutions.
  • Evidence-backed pathways - to change behaviour and bring low-carbon solutions and materials into the mainstream.
  • Leadership and vision - we need to influence key decision makers.
  • A holistic approach - involving the building and construction industry as well as banking, finance and other sectors.

Why a collaborative programme approach is necessary:

  • The timing is urgent.
  • It will build wider support for leadership and action.
  • It will build wider capability for industry to respond in an inclusive manner.
  • There are many knowledge gaps to be addressed.

The programme moves from evidence to pathways to solutions:

  • Evidence - use research to fill the gaps in our knowledge.
  • Pathways - use the evidence to create net-zero carbon pathways for the industry.
  • Solutions - design, develop and implement solutions that give net-zero carbon outputs for all building products, processes and practices.