Building for climate change and sustainability

Building for climate change and sustainability

Affecting our nation and the world, climate change is now a core consideration for many when building or renovating their homes. For homeowners and builders alike, sustainability is now just as important as safety and cost.

As a country, we are now experiencing the irreversible impacts of climate change. A national plan is needed to adapt to rising sea levels, more frequent flooding, coastal and inland erosion, and droughts, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t actions you can take independently of any government decisions.

In future, the aim will be to design buildings using as little energy and water as practical, which will mean less greenhouse gas emissions both during construction and after completion. Recycling buildings and materials will also be a priority to reduce waste and emissions. Link to NZCB Nov. 2022 blog ‘It’s easier than you think to be green.’

In the meantime, we need to review construction and maintenance in our daily operations to reduce our collective impact on the environment. And while it’s considered a trend at the moment, soon it will be the norm to ask your builder for an efficient building, and construction, with a low climate impact. Our NZCB builders will not only anticipate these requirements, but they will be well-equipped with suggestions and answers to help you achieve your goals for your home.

Building for energy efficiency and climate resilience does not have to be complex, though. There are several straightforward ways to improve your construction project’s environmental impact, including preventing re-work, not wasting material, using fuel-efficient construction equipment, and protecting finished work. You can also source materials locally, wherever possible, as this not only reduces the environmental impact of transport but you’re also supporting local businesses.

Other simple steps include minimising and separating waste, and recycling where possible, especially when demolishing and building. You should also opt for environmentally-friendly materials, which carry fewer health risks for humans – if it’s better for you, it’s likely better for the environment. Consider the thermal properties of the materials you choose, for example, both wood and concrete are great for retaining heat. And finally, when you get to the interior decisions, select appliances with high energy-efficiency ratings and ensure lighting uses low-energy LED bulbs.

To also help reduce the long-term costs of your build, both financial and environmental, you can design passive heating into your build. Take advantage of the sun’s free warmth by orienting and designing your house to trap the sun during the day – utilising natural light, rather than relying on artificial light. Insulation is a priority for passive heating. Installing above code insulation in the ceiling, walls and underfloor and double-glazing windows will help keep your home warm, dry and airtight, which in turn saves on energy costs. Link to NZCB blog Aug 2022 ‘H1 changes to glazing in New Zealand and how to choose the correct glass type for your new home.’

We all need to make efforts to adapt to climate change, and adopting an innovative, green building philosophy and sustainability measures for your next build is an easy way to do that. Plus it makes our homes warmer, drier, better-ventilated, and more energy efficient, giving us a healthier place to live and work.

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