Building Code insulation changes just the start for greener buildings

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As New Zealand’s building regulator, the MBIE wants a high-performing building regulatory system that supports better buildings for everyone in New Zealand.

John Sneyd, General Manager Building System Performance at the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, explains the upcoming insulation H1 changes.


As New Zealand’s building regulator, we want a high-performing building regulatory system that supports better buildings for everyone in New Zealand.

A key way we ensure New Zealand is continuing to deliver safe, healthy and durable buildings is through updating Building Code requirements.

Every year, we publicly consult on proposals to update the acceptable solutions and verification methods used to demonstrate compliance with the Building Code, so that new building work can meet the changing needs of modern New Zealand.

We seek a range of views on proposals so we can continue to update Building Code requirements in the best interests of New Zealanders, in a way that works for the sector.

There is a high level of public interest in improving energy efficiency. Our consultation on the insulation H1 changes last year received more submissions than the past five years of updates combined, with more than 98% of responses supporting increases over the status quo in the shortest time possible.

We sought feedback as part of this process to ensure any changes would be readily achievable across the country.

Our final decisions reflected the valuable feedback we received not only through the public consultation process, but also targeted engagement with key players in the sector.

It is really encouraging to see the level of support the changes have received from across the sector.

There is broad acknowledgement that in Aotearoa we need to lift our game when it comes to building warmer, drier, healthier homes that use less energy to run.

From this, it’s clear we have a mandate for ambitious, achievable change while ensuring the stability of the construction sector.

We are establishing six new climate zones to better reflect the specific weather experienced in different parts of New Zealand, meaning homes will now be designed based on the climate they’re built in.

This decision was made following an evaluation whereby New Zealand climates were considered against comparable international climates. Our evaluation concluded that improvements were needed to bring New Zealand in line with international standards for energy efficiency.

Some of these changes will require upfront investments, which will provide ongoing savings and long-term health benefits from day one.

We estimate a single-storey, timber-frame, four-bedroom home will require an upfront investment of between $8800 to $12,100 to be built to the new insulation requirements, depending on the climate zone.

This will achieve an estimated 40% reduction in the energy needed for heating for the life of the building.

If New Zealand is to reach our net carbon zero emissions target by 2050, we will need to make much bigger changes to the way we operate across the entire sector.

The H1 changes are the first of many which will improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions in buildings.

Our Building for Climate Change programme will set targets for energy and water use, and embodied carbon, as well as look at ways to encourage innovative thinking about designing, building and operating buildings. The H1 changes are the first step in reducing operational emissions.

There is no doubt that the sector continues to face material shortages and price increases as a result of the Covid pandemic, global shipping constraints, high commodity prices, and record demand for new houses.

However, achieving net carbon zero 2050 is a long-term challenge that requires bold vision, commitment and perseverance, and any changes we can make to reduce the climate impact of houses will have a lasting effect for future generations.

We are fully committed to working alongside the construction sector to ensure successful implementation of these important changes.

We are eager to understand the detail of any concerns as a result of rising pressures since our consultation, and we will continue to work with the sector to determine whether further support is required ahead of these changes being implemented.

You can get in touch with the MBIE at building@mbie.govt.nz.

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