BRANZ has launched a web site providing information about sustainability, tailored specifically to New Zealand construction industry professionals.
Interest in sustainability has taken off this year, and the construction industry is playing a key part. More construction companies and products are being promoted as environmentally friendly, and there are a growing number of environmental rating schemes on offer.
But where can you find independent advice and technical help in working out what is truly sustainable?
That’s where the new web site, www.level.org.nz, comes in. Built over the past year by BRANZ writers and scientists, the site has been put together specifically as an authoritative resource for the New Zealand industry, and is primarily aimed at providing “Informed Sustainability”, not merely “green-wash”.
Mainstream technical advice
Level covers building site analysis and site use, passive design, materials, water use, energy, assessment and guidance tools, and health issues. There is a particular focus on residential construction.
The site provides technical options facing building professionals, their advantages and disadvantages, schematic drawings, background explanations, regulatory requirements, and links to sources of more detailed and specialist information. The fact sheets can be downloaded.
Much of the content applies to mainstream construction.
“We knew from the start that the web site couldn’t be limited just to topics like straw bale construction or composting toilets,” says David Hindley, project manager for the web site’s development.
“It contains information which can be used to varying degrees on just about any project.”
However, topics of limited applicability such as micro-hydro energy generation are still covered.
Complements Consumer web site
At the same time as it was being developed, another site targeted at consumers has been put together. Funded by the Ministry for the Environment and produced by the Consumers’ Institute, the site covers similar ground to Level but in a less technical way.
It has been planned that if clients of an architect or designer find something on the Consumer site that they want to be part of their home, the architect can turn to Level to find out how to achieve it.
On the level
And the name “Level”? The word has an obvious meaning in the construction industry, where spirit levels or laser levels are used on every job.
“It also implies balance,” Mr Hindley says, “and sustainability is all about balance. There is also the meaning that something which is on the level is reliable, and BRANZ’s site will certainly be that.”
The site joins a growing number of BRANZ publications and tools on sustainability topics. Almost half of recent BRANZ Bulletins have been on topics related to sustainability, such as heat pumps, solar water heating and rainwater collection.
Four books focusing on sustainability in specific areas of building will also be published over the next year.
The development of the site was funded by the Building Research Levy.