MBIE opens consultation on proposals to reduce carbon emissions in the building and construction sector

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is consulting on proposed regulatory changes to reduce carbon emissions in the building and construction sector which it intends to start rolling out next year.

Two high-level frameworks have been put forward for consultation which will affect everyone in the building and construction sector from those involved in the production of materials, project planning and design through to the construction, use and end-of-life stage of buildings.

The consultation is being run by MBIE’s Building System Performance team, which was set-up to lead change in the building and construction sector to help achieve the emissions reduction goals set under the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019 (Zero Carbon Act).

A snapshot of the two frameworks is set out below.

The Whole of Life Embodied Carbon Emissions Framework

The Whole of Life Embodied Carbon Emissions Framework aims to reduce carbon emissions attributable to buildings across the building’s whole life cycle, from the production of building materials, all the way through to what happens to the building when it’s at the end of its life (‘embodied carbon’).

The objectives of this framework are to:

  • Maximise new build efficiency: ensure the size and quantity of new buildings are proportional to the need, upgrade existing buildings so they can be used effectively and increase the longevity of new buildings and their components to reduce avoidable new builds in the future.
  • Increase building material efficiency: use less material in new buildings, including reducing waste and minimising replacement over the building’s life cycle.
  • Reduce the carbon intensity of materials used in new buildings: either by making design choices to use low-carbon materials over high-carbon alternatives and/or reducing the embodied carbon of construction materials.

To achieve these objectives, MBIE is proposing that the following changes will be made to the building regulatory system:

  • For an initial period, as part of the building consent process, applicants would be required to report on whole-of-life embodied carbon of a proposed building.
  • After that, buildings would be required to meet a mandatory cap on whole-of-life embodied carbon in order to obtain a building consent. The cap will be tightened in a series of steps over time to deliver the increased reductions in emissions required by the National Emissions Reduction Plan under the Zero Carbon Act.
  • Data on the embodied carbon from buildings, collected from reporting stages, is made publicly available.

The scope of this framework is proposed to be initially limited to life cycles, building components, projects and building types where change will have the greatest reduction in emissions for the effort required.  Initially the framework is proposed to only apply to the production and construction stages, the structural and envelope building components and new builds.  This includes housing, communal residential, communal non-residential, commercial and industrial new builds.

The Transforming Operational Efficiency Framework

The Transforming Operational Efficiency Framework aims to reduce carbon emissions directly and indirectly attributable to the operation of new housing, communal residential, communal non-residential, commercial and industrial buildings.

The objectives of this framework are to:

  • Reduce operation emissions: reduce fossil fuel consumption, reduce the use of electricity and water in buildings and increase the operational efficiency of buildings.
  • Reduce water use: reduce the use of water in buildings to reduce operational emissions (as above) but also to assist with climate change adaptation and resilience and increase the capacity of regional water supplies to meet demand.
  • Improve occupant health and well-being: ensure buildings are at comfortable temperatures, dry (appropriate humidity) and well ventilated.

To achieve these objectives, MBIE is proposing that the building regulatory system would be changed to require new buildings to comply with:

  • A mandatory ‘Operational Emissions Cap’ on the total allowable annual emissions per square metre per annum associated with the energy and water used when operating the building.
  • Mandatory electricity use requirements (for thermal performance, services efficiency and plug loads).
  • A mandatory ‘Water Use Cap’ on the total allowable potable water use per square metre per annum for all new buildings.
  • Defined Indoor Environment Quality parameters (regulating air temperature, humidity, ventilation, surface temperature, avoidance of mould and daylight provision) for all new buildings to comply with.

The framework proposes an initial, intermediate and final Operational Emissions Cap and Water Use Caps.  Both caps tighten with each step, reaching a final cap by 2035.   MBIE intends to review the cap levels at each step over time and make any necessary adjustments.

We can help you

Submissions on the two frameworks can be made by anyone up until 7:00 PM on 30 September.

Our team is across the detail of the two frameworks.  Please get in touch if you would like to discuss MBIE’s proposals, what they may mean for your business or if you require any assistance preparing a submission.

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