Reading time
10 mins
September 13, 2022

Transitioning to near zero emission houses and offices

Our work for the New Zealand Green Building Council shows potential for significant benefits

To celebrate the start of Green Building Week 2022, the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) released a first of its kind report assessing the economic impact of New Zealand transitioning to building new lower carbon houses and offices. 

The built environment is responsible for around 20 percent of New Zealand’s carbon footprint, and a typical new Kiwi home emits five times the amount of carbon to stay within two degrees of warming.

The research was a collaborative effort between NZGBC and BERL. BERL forecast New Zealand’s housing stock and construction rate out to 2050, while the NZGBC with its members, BECA and Rawlinsons, developed specifications and costs for three different homes – a home built only to the minimum requirements of the Building Code, a low emission home, and a near zero emission home – and two office plans – a typical four storey office, and a low emission four storey office.

Two scenarios were developed. The first scenario was a bit more ambitious and assumed that just Building Code compliant houses and offices were built in 2023 and 2024, with low emission houses and low emission offices were built from 2025 to 2034, and then, from 2035 to 2050, near zero emission houses and low emission offices are built.

The second, less ambitious scenario, assumed that Building Code compliant houses and offices were built between 2023 and 2029, then from 2030 to 2039 low emission houses and low emission offices were built and then, from 2040 to 2050, near zero emission houses and low emission offices were built.

Each scenario estimated the impact on expenditure, gross domestic product (GDP) and employment. Additionally, the potential reductions to emissions and electricity demand were estimated.

The most ambitious scenario would contribute an additional $147 billion to New Zealand’s GDP, and support an average 46,000 additional full-time jobs every year between 2025 and 2050.

The scenarios clearly showed that building near zero emission houses has the greatest impact, and the earlier these houses are built the greater the potential economic impacts, as well as electricity savings and emissions avoided.

Carbon pollution could be cut by 13 million tonnes while electricity demand from new build houses and offices would be slashed by over 8,000 gigawatt hours in 2050 compared to standard homes and offices built today.

We hope this report will contribute to the ongoing conversations about how we can take ambitious steps to improve the quality of New Zealand’s built environment.

The report and more information about the NZGBC can be accessed here

In addition to our work on the impact of new houses and offices, BERL and the NZGBC are currently working on a report for BRANZ that will address successful overseas initiatives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from existing buildings, and their applicability to New Zealand.