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Newsletter Issue 6 No 2

BRANZ Green Home Scheme by John le Harivel

(Part abridged extract from speech by Simon Upton)

   
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Simon Upton launched the Branz Green Home Scheme on 12 August, saying it was "a timely and appropriate initiative"!

"The scheme is voluntary (!!!!!). It provides homebuilders and designers with information on how their building compares with best practice methods on a wide range of environmental, health and safety issues. It takes a life cycle approach to environmental effects and assesses building design from a global, local and immediate environmental perspective. It awards credits across a range of areas: energy use, lighting systems, indoor pollutants, use of recycled materials, waste disposal methods and storage of hazardous materials". If the design attracts enough credits the homeowner receives a certificate".(wow!)

"The residential sector consumes approximately 13% of New Zealand's total energy (about 55PJ), and this is projected to increase to around 67PJ by 2020.

Although the smallest of the three energy sectors in the economy (the others being industry/commercial and transport), there is understood to be considerable potential for energy efficiency savings. The residential sector has the slowest turnover of capital stock, so investment decisions made now will have long term environmental implications".

"The Government has, through the Energy Saver Fund, targeted $6 million to reach over 80,000 New Zealand homes, through improving hot water cylinder insulation and energy audits".

"These measures are part of the Governments" (rather feeble) "efforts to meet New Zealand's binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions".

The voluntary approach is said to be voluntary "to enable consumers to express(!) their preferences on building design".(ie, do what they like!) The Green Home Scheme is supposed to assist them in this process. It remains to be seen how many builders rush to make use of the scheme and how successful a marketing tool it might be.

Research carried out in the UK on buyers’ preferences in the new home market indicated that prospective house purchasers were primarily motivated by location and price. Energy efficiency was of some interest, especially to those who had previously experienced living in a house with passive solar features. However, even the homeowners who did express an interest in energy efficiency said that location and price were the determining factors when they bought a new house. Home builders in the same survey certainly didn't see much benefit in promoting energy efficiency and strongly resisted, as they do here in New Zealand, attempts to impose improved standards in energy efficiency, seeing these as likely to add costs. Witness the delays to the amendments to part H of the Building Code here in New Zealand. Increases in standards in thermal performance in the Scottish Building regulations, introduced in 1994, brought howls of protest from the building industry, citing potential increased costs, less houses built, and problems with meeting the standards. Without legislation, left to market forces, the building industry in Scotland would not have made much effort on its own to improve thermal standards.

Without a shift in public opinion towards energy efficiency, little progress is likely.

The NZ Building Code is also supposed to be being updated, although this has been delayed due to building industry pressure. The changes to the NZ Building Code concern insulation levels, separate requirements for houses in cold areas, and set limits on hot water cylinder system heat losses - not exactly mind blowing stuff. None of these proposed changes are particularly dramatic and, viewed alongside other countries’ efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, look positively meagre.

The Government says the Green Home Scheme fits nicely into their Cleaner Production objectives! Whatever they might be.

A free booklet entitled Branz Green Home Scheme is available and covers: -

  • 'What is a Green Home?'
  • 'Why should I want a Green Home?'
  • 'What is a Green Home Scheme?'
  • 'How can I benefit?'
  • 'What kinds of issues are looked at?'
  • 'Where to go from here'

A free Homeowner’s Guide is also available which covers

  • 'What is the Green Home Scheme?'
  • 'How does it work?'
  • 'Why is it important?'
  • 'Global issues'
  • 'Local issues'
  • 'Glossary'

More detailed manuals can be purchased to enable the calculations to be made. The scheme is not available as a computer program.

Local issues include recycling, water economy, site selection, compost systems.

Indoor issues include kitchen extracts, bathroom extracts, wood preservatives, lighting, smoke alarms, hazardous materials, indoor pollutants, and VOC’s.

The initiative appears to be a stripped down version of parts of the UK's Bredem program and ideas from America's Houston's ‘Green City’ plan.

It is far too timid in approach and, without some legislative clout, is unlikely to have much influence. I doubt whether the mass population will flock to utilise the scheme until either some tangible benefits emerge or some compulsion is involved.

It’s time New Zealand had some initiatives with teeth, that actually helped to create a 'clean green image' and were not just superficial marketing that’s wearing a little thin internationally.