Climate Change to be a heightened focus of the Building Act 2004 

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Severe weather events in Summer 2022/2023 have brought climate change and its interaction with the built environment to the front of mind for many.  

To support the Government’s goal of net zero carbon by 2050, the Government proposed late last year to amend the Building Act 2004 to reduce emissions from construction related activity.

The proposed amendments are part of the Government’s broader Building for Climate Change Programme established in 2020. More changes are expected in the future including updating the Building Code to include emissions caps and hazard data and reporting requirements.

The Government is setting a clear signal that it is a key responsibility of the building and construction sector to consider the impact of climate change and the resilience of buildings.

Key changes

The proposed amendments to the Building Act 2004 include mandating energy performance rating requirements for buildings and waste minimisation plans for construction and demolition projects.

Specifically, the proposed amendments will:

  • change the principles and purposes of the Building Act, to clarify that climate change is a key consideration.
  • make it mandatory for new and existing public, industrial and large-scale residential buildings (such as multi-storey apartment buildings) to hold energy performance ratings,
  • require those intending to undertake certain building or demolition work to have a waste minimisation plan.

Implications of the changes

The change to the purpose and principles of the Building Act to focus on emissions reduction and climate resilience influences how all construction practitioners, local government, and central government can make decisions under the Building Act and Building Code. 

The energy performance requirements are intended to help lower energy bills by providing users with an assessment of the building’s energy use. The waste minimisation plans are intended to create cost savings and reduce emissions through encouraging more efficient use of materials.

Going forward, professionals in the construction industry will have to use energy efficient design and materials, generate operational efficiency, and reduce building waste. Local councils will have to approve waste minimisation plans when consenting.

As the sector continues to experience challenges with material supply, productivity, and workforce constraints, such changes will need to consider the effect on the cost of building. This includes the availability of materials to satisfy good performance ratings, the availability of building recycling services throughout New Zealand and ongoing compliance costs. 

The Government has also signalled that future changes to the Building Code are expected to reduce operational emissions and embodied carbon of buildings.  

What you can expect in 2023

The Government anticipates introducing a Building (Climate Change Response) Amendment Bill in 2023. A select committee process, including consultation phase will follow. Much of the details of the proposed changes will be in regulations and are expected to be phased in from 2025 onwards. 

If you would like to discuss the proposed changes or its potential impact on your business, please contact a member of the Construction and Projects team.


Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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