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Heroes versus villains: Buildings and climate change

Heroes versus villains: Buildings and climate change

Do you go to work in a heroic building designed to combat greenhouse gas emissions?

Given buildings account for over a third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions this isn’t an idle question.

This was the framing that the World Green Building Council (WGBC) and its members wrapped around this year’s World Green Building Week, which ends tomorrow.

For its part the NZ Green Building Council (NZGBC) ran a nationwide series of events that focused on what heroic buildings look like, and posed the question of how to reach a target of net zero carbon buildings by 2050.

At a public lecture in Wellington last night put on by the NZGBC and events sponsor Kingspan some stark contrasts between the types of direction being taken in Germany and New Zealand around energy use were made by new Victoria University lecturer Hans-Christian Wilhelm.

Germany’s direction on bringing down housing-related emissions is ambitious and highly structured whereas New Zealand – without such things as European Union directives – is at best piecemeal by comparison.

Even so Wilhlem was optimisitic that New Zealand could play catch-up – “it just needs to be the best in the world in housing”.

Speakers Patrick Arnold, of eCubed, and Elzine Braasch, of Aecom, expressed confidence about the ability of the office buildings sector to combat greenhouse gas emissions, with attention given to five "heroic building" projects in Wellington, namely:
20 Customhouse Quay (Studio Pacific)
• Bowen Campus (Warren & Mahoney)
149 Featherston Street (Studio Pacific)
15 Stout Street (Warren & Mahoney)
• Site 10 – Wellington waterfront (Athfield Architects)
Arnold said that the NZGBC also deserves recognition for its pursuit of practices that are essential for a brighter future, adding that its real heroism was in pushing back against the “inertia” of conventional approaches stubbornly followed within the building and construction industry.

To quote from the resources put together by WGBC for World Green Building Week “net zero buildings are our brightest hope in the fight against climate change. They use clean energy and minimise waste, and that makes them heroes”.


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