• International Journal of Technology (IJTech)
  • Vol 12, No 5 (2021)

Green Building Practice in the New Zealand Construction Industry: Drivers and Limitations

Green Building Practice in the New Zealand Construction Industry: Drivers and Limitations

Title: Green Building Practice in the New Zealand Construction Industry: Drivers and Limitations
Dat Tien Doan, Hamish Wall, Ali Ghaffarian Hoseini, Amirhosein Ghaffarianhoseini, Nicola Naismith

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Cite this article as:
Doan, D.T., Wall, H., Ghaffarian Hoseini, A., Ghaffarianhoseini, A., Naismith, N., 2021. Green Building Practice in the New Zealand Construction Industry: Drivers and Limitations. International Journal of Technology. Volume 12(5), pp. 946-955

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Dat Tien Doan Department of Built Environment Engineering, School of Future Environments, Auckland University of Technology, 55 Wellesley St E, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
Hamish Wall Department of Built Environment Engineering, School of Future Environments, Auckland University of Technology, 55 Wellesley St E, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
Ali Ghaffarian Hoseini Department of Built Environment Engineering, School of Future Environments, Auckland University of Technology, 55 Wellesley St E, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
Amirhosein Ghaffarianhoseini Department of Built Environment Engineering, School of Future Environments, Auckland University of Technology, 55 Wellesley St E, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
Nicola Naismith Department of Built Environment Engineering, School of Future Environments, Auckland University of Technology, 55 Wellesley St E, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
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Abstract
Green Building Practice in the New Zealand Construction Industry: Drivers and Limitations

        










Green Star NZ is New Zealand’s primary rating system that determines and assesses how environmentally friendly non-residential buildings are. New Zealand portrays itself as a clean and green nation; however, its uptake of the Green Star NZ assessment tool has been slow. This research examines the current strengths and limitations of the New Zealand green new construction industry using primary data collected and analyzed from semi-structured interviews. The results fundamentally demonstrate a limited understanding of best green building practices and Green Star NZ on behalf of New Zealand’s commercial construction industry. The research identified 12 key limitations mitigating green building in New Zealand’s new construction. Four of these limitations were new ideas presented in the interviews, including supply chain inefficiencies, tools not tailored to New Zealand, unproven commercial feasibility, and lack of short-term benefits. Current contractor drivers were identified as basic operation-based strengths, which include waste segregation/waste management processes, basic resource efficiencies, occupant comfort, and increasing awareness. As New Zealand’s green rating system uptake is still in its infancy, the country can learn from the teething issues of other countries that have progressed in sustainable built environment practices.

Climate change; Green rating system; Green Star NZ; New Zealand

Introduction

Climate change is the most pertinent environmental issue of our time and one of the greatest challenges we face as a global community. The scientific evidence is irrefutable; climate change is affecting agriculture, native ecosystems, infrastructure, health, and biosecurity (MfE, 2019a). Recent studies have indicated that the construction and operation of buildings accounted for 39% of global emissions in 2017 (WorldGBC, 2017; Basten et al., 2019). Similarly, thinkstep (2019) published a report that attributed 20% of New Zealand’s (NZ) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to built environments.

The NZ government has already implemented several goals and initiatives planning to align NZ with the greater global objectives ratified in the Paris Agreement by shifting to a low-carbon economy. The latest target that was set by the NZ government in 2011 under the Climate Change Response Act 2002 aims to reduce emissions to below 50% of the 1990 levels by 2050. The purpose of the Act is to provide a legal framework to insure that NZ meets its international obligations under the Paris Agreement (MfE, 2019b).

In 2007, the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) introduced the Green Star NZ rating system to mitigate the impacts of construction projects on the environment. For a project to become awarded a Green Star NZ rating, the design and construction processes must exceed basic building code compliance and prove efficiency in many assessment criteria. The criteria assess the project’s focus on reducing GHG emissions, build management, indoor environment quality, energy, transport and water efficiencies, green material use, and land and ecology considerations. Since 2007, 150 projects have been certified (NZGBC, 2021).

As NZ is new to the initiative, little research is dedicated to practices, strengths, and limitations in the current NZ new green construction industry. The existing academic literature investigates popular green construction practices in larger countries such as the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK). However, relevant literature documenting the current issues impacting contractors and the progression of green new commercial construction in NZ is limited. Contractor concerns have been omitted from green construction research, and the literature has focused on environmental factors, developer requirements, or end-user needs. With many established commercial construction companies reportedly finding themselves no longer a going concern, it is essential for the industry to understand the strengths and limitations that contractors currently exhibit. Therefore, this research investigates the NZ green construction industry’s current strengths and limitations, focusing on contractor limitations.

1.1.    Green Building Overview

The Green building is becoming a popular practice globally, primarily due to the increased attention given to environmental issues and the role that construction must play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (Masia et al., 2020). Although the words “green” and “sustainable” are often used interchangeably, academically, they are not the same. Green building practice typically holds the environment as the single focus, or a single pillar as described by Doan et al. (2017), compared to sustainable construction practice, which takes a more holistic view, with the addition of more pillars. Currently, sustainable construction focuses on three main pillars—the environmental, social, and economic issues of a building—and the context of its community (Kibert, 2016). In time, more pillars may be added as the concept of sustainability is interpreted more clearly.

NZ’s primary green rating system (GRS), Green Star NZ, has seen a measured uptake compared to other existing systems used globally. Doan et al. (2017) deduced that Green Star NZ was potentially the weakest of all GRSs, as it can only focus on a single pillar of sustainability: the environment. Among the four different green rating systems—BREEAM, LEED, CASBEE, and Green Star NZ—only BREEAM comprises sub-categories for assessing the sustainability of a construction project in all sustainable pillars (Doan et al., 2017). However, only three and four sub-categories were allocated for economic and institutional pillars, respectively (Doan et al., 2017). It was concluded that none of the four systems examined (BREEAM, LEED, CASBEE and Green Star NZ) could assess a project in all aspects of sustainability (Doan et al., 2017).

1.2.    Drivers and Limitations of Green Building in NZ

Despite many factors leading to the favorable adoption of green building practice—a marked increase in building consent numbers, the industry operating in a current boom cycle, and increased attention to improved environmental outcomes (PwC, 2016)—the NZ construction industry seems hesitant to adopt green building practices, assessed by NZGBC. Isa et al. (2018) and Tharim et al. (2018) also highlighted the gap between agreement on the principle of green development and the actual modest certified projects.

Bond (2011), Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ) (2018), and thinkstep (2019) all stated that increased policy implementation has spurred the industry into ‘greener’ development. This action was particularly apparent regarding energy efficiency through the introduction of the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy (NZEECS), a detailed plan for increasing energy efficiency, renewable resource use, and conservation. BRANZ (2018) provided direction and a framework for the future of NZ’s construction and development, facilitating NZ’s built environments’ response to climate change. The potential for implementing a Climate Change Act, similar to that developed in the UK, was also discussed (BRANZ, 2018). However, at the local government level, few councils have their own emission-reduction strategies. An example of one strategy is Auckland’s Low Carbon Auckland Plan, which aims to reduce emissions by 40% by 2040 (BRANZ, 2018).

Bond (2011) revealed the peculiar nature of NZ’s GHG emissions profile and how that limits NZ’s ability in typical GHG mitigation. Two of the highest contributing industries to NZ GHG emissions are agriculture and transportation. It is a challenge for both these industries to reduce emissions, unlike countries such as Australia, which can reduce its emissions profile by lowering the burning of fossil fuels and switching to more sustainable energy sources (Bond, 2011). Several authors (Bond and Perrett, 2012; BRANZ, 2018; Doan et al., 2019; Li et al., 2020; Masia et al., 2020) highlighted the common perception that there was high capital cost for building green among the market and a lack of market understanding, demand, and benchmark projects, which could be attributed to the infancy of green building practice in NZ compared to other developed countries. Bond and Perrett (2012) and BRANZ (2018) also identified a lack of incentives as a key barrier to green construction. 

Conclusion

This research investigated the drivers and limitations of green building practices in the NZ new construction industry. Focus was given to the strengths and limitations of the contractor to determine the slow uptake of green construction in NZ. The primary data were triangulated against the academic literature to promote the research validity and highlight areas that were not previously identified.

The research identified 12 key limitations mitigating green building in NZ new construction. Four of these limitations were new ideas presented in the interviews, including supply chain inefficiencies, tools not tailored to NZ, unproven commercial feasibility, and lack of short-term benefits. Current contractor drivers, such as waste segregation/waste management processes, basic resource efficiencies, occupant comfort, and increasing awareness, were identified as basic operation-based strengths.

With its GRS uptake still in its infancy, NZ has the advantage of being able to learn from the teething issues of other countries that have progressed in their sustainable built environment practices. Future research will incorporate a larger sample size to include the situation of key stakeholders regarding sustainable construction in NZ.

Acknowledgement

        This research has been supported with Extra PBRF 2021 Funding by the School of Future Environments, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand.

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