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We're missing the design problem of green buildings

This week is World Green Building Week 2018, and its focus is on making our homes greener, healthier and more energy efficient.

According to the World Green Building Council, buildings - including the homes we live in - account for around 40% of global energy consumption, which is over a third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

So, how can we more sustainable? According to Sam Archer from the New Zealand Green Building Council, it’s about understanding how we can build our buildings better and how we can eliminate waste from the construction process.

Can you tell us more about the New Zealand Green Building Council?

We’re a membership organisation, and we’ve got 500 members from the construction industry. We work collaboratively with our members including some of the biggest players in New Zealand’s construction. What we’re about is best practice in new builds. We run sustainability standards for the built environment, with people designing new buildings and operating buildings and having their efforts rated using the tools that we run.

One of those is HomeStar, our rating system for new build homes; one is Green Star which is for commercial buildings and non-domestic buildings; and our new tool called Green Star performance looks at operational performance in existing builds.

We build a Green Building but does it perform in reality? How is it actually working? Some of it would be around the actual attributes of the building and energy, but mainly it will be the behaviour of the team and the occupants.

While most people focus on operational recycling, the statistics we have here is 50% of waste coming from construction.

What does success look like for you when it comes to sustainability and the future?

I think it will be a building that’s using as little energy as possible. To some extent it would be some onsite renewables, New Zealand has a very low carbon grid so that would be more up to the government. It would be buildings that are using very low amounts of water, that don’t generate much waste in the design of the building and operation.

Why do you think recycling is important, and what does it mean for the Green Building Council?

For me, an important part of that is that while most people focus on operational recycling the statistics we have here is 50% of waste coming from construction. That’s fairly typical in developed countries.

We’d like to see designers designing out waste in the first place – modular constructions, and doing things like designing the size of components to avoid offcuts. We'd like to see contractors working with waste to find alternative uses for the waste that comes out of the site; Green Gorilla, for example, have set up construction waste recycling and making use of them turning treated and incinerated timber into cement.

Have a question about World Green Building Week? Let us know at @MethodRecycling.

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