North Shore Green Builder – Achieving Green Building
How Can We Achieve Green Building in NZ
Last month we posted about some of the basic considerations for “green building”. This month we are going to look at what that means in practical terms for building a green home.
Design First, Building Second
Better design, not just better construction standards, is a first step. This means having houses that are designed with the intent of being carbon neutral rather than simply having better insulation or solar panels on the roof.
This will require minimising external joints. Another good idea is positioning houses to take advantage of the hyperlocal land, sun and even wind orientation.
Better materials too will add to the carbon zero footprint.
Energy Labelling Homes
People look at energy consumption for household appliances and fuel usage cars. Now buyers or renters of a house can see the energy data for their homes. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority has a 6-star rating for energy-efficiency of homes. This affects houses and apartments. As a buyer or renter, you can see how much energy your home is likely to consume. You can find more details here
Certified Green Buildings
When you want a carbon zero home, the design and construction materials are only part of the process. You also need to look for buildings that have carboNZero building certification. This is a certification from the NZ Green Building Council. They aim “to measure your (building’s) current carbon emissions more formally, manage your carbon footprint, offset any unavoidable emissions”.
Eliminate Fossil Fuel Usage In Buildings
Despite having a fairly low usage of carbon fuels for electricity generation, that does not apply to energy consumption in homes. Gas or coal is generally used for heaters.
An alternative used in Scandinavia where they have warm, well-ventilated homes is wood burners or electrically-driven heat pumps. These will reduce the carbon usage in a home. They will also improve the overall comfort for the occupants.
Carbon Zero On The Construction Side
Carbon consumption in buildings, including the construction and operation of them, is high. It accounts for 20% of carbon emissions in this country. It is split equally between construction and operation.
Two of the biggest culprits for CO2 emissions are steel and cement (including concrete). It will be a big improvement if these are replaced with lower carbon producing materials. In NZ we use a lot of pine for framing for houses. That means we are in the right direction with that as a building material. However, there are more houses being built from concrete blocks and bricks.
Most NZ houses are built on a concrete slab. A good design technique is replacing the slab or using stronger concrete needing less cement.
Other ideas to look for are lighter-weight materials. These will use less diesel for transport from production to distribution to the building site.
One of the biggest carbon contributors in construction is the waste from demolished sites. There is also a lot of material that is bought but not used in the construction process. A lot of the waste can either be reused or recycled rather than dumped.
Look for House Builders Committed to Green Buildings
Some builders will want to reduce their own carbon emissions. Others are developing businesses around building green homes. Working with architects and designers to create very energy efficient, low carbon and comfortable homes.
This includes working with new or sustainable materials as well as best practices.
Some are looking at better building techniques. This means we can build eco-friendly homes using these designs, construction methods and materials.
Other Lower Carbon Materials For Construction
Besides using locally grown timber for building your home, you can consider other low carbon materials.
A Growing Momentum For Climate Change Impacts in the NZ Building Industry
Green building is no longer a hippy’s lifestyle. It is a fast-growing movement towards a zero-carbon building industry. The NZGBC currently has over 500 members. These range from designers, financiers, material producers and builders. There are also key political figures and industry advocates.
Green Building Is Growing
If you want to have a new home built, we strongly urge you to think about taking the green-building route. It will not only help your family’s carbon emissions, but it will also mean that your home is more saleable in the future.