29 Nov 2023

Webinar Recap | Building a sustainable future: Tools to decarbonise the construction industry

Posted in: Sustainable Development

Webinar Recap | Building a sustainable future: Tools to decarbonise the construction industry

The construction industry contributed to 8.2% of New Zealand’s annual gross emissions in 2021 and is projected to increase by one-third in the next decade, highlighting the importance and opportunity the industry has to decarbonise. Listen to Toitū Envirocare’s panel of experts and Precinct Properties Head of Sustainability, Lisa Hinde, as they discuss what sustainable practices and initiatives are currently occurring in the construction industry. This session takes a deep dive into the tools available to measure emissions and how they can be used to make smart decisions to build a low-carbon future.

Natalie WardBusiness Development Managr (MC)Toitū Envirocare
Josh McGloneTeam Lead - Account Management (Manufacturing & Built Environment)Toitū Envirocare
Abbas TamadonSenior Advisor - LCA and ToolsToitū Envirocare
Lisa HindeHead of SustainabilityPrecinct Properties

During this webinar, you will:

  • Hear about current decarbonisation trends and initiatives within the construction industry.
  • Gain insight into the benefits for your business by going beyond minimum standards.
  • Learn what a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for buildings includes.
  • Explore the differences between LCA and Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) and how to choose the right approach.
  • Discover what tools are available to you and why they are important.
  • Understand what to include to create a compelling business case for sustainable construction.
  • Hear from Precinct Properties and discover their sustainability initiatives and journey with Toitū.

Contact us here to get bespoke assistance for your business.

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Additional Q&A

01. Are the banks going to need to measure embodied emissions as well as operational emissions for their financed emission measurement for commercial property and mortgages?

The GHG protocol considers financial investments with a specific category: Scope 3 Category 15 Investments. Under full value chain reporting the impacts associated with any investments the banks undertake will need to be reported and under Science Based Targets, implement reduction strategies of these impacts.

Climate Reporting Entities (CREs), which include all registered banks, credit unions and building societies with total assets of more than $1 billion, will need to report their investment emissions through Climate Related Disclosures (CRDs). This includes the investment emissions associated with the embodied carbon of property. Whether the calculation methodology is through life cycle assessment, or a more high-level approach, will be determined by the reporting entity and/or future, more detailed legislation/requirements.

02. Is there any thought about how the new Government may support, or not, MBIE to drive Building for Climate Change?

We’re not in a position to comment or advise on what the Government’s plan is on this matter. However, what we’re seeing is the construction sector is increasingly recognising the importance of sustainable building practices. Market pressures, along with growing public and corporate awareness of environmental impacts are driving changes. This is one of the new Government’s intent, to enable the market to operate more freely. We can therefore expect this to a continued driver in building over the next 5 to 10 years. This includes adopting energy-efficient designs, sustainable materials, and construction methods that minimise the carbon footprint. We anticipate the Government’s policies, regardless of their specifics, will need to align – to an extent – with evolving market expectations and global trends towards low carbon and climate centred building practices.

03. What can be done to encourage SMEs in the supply chain to engage with LCA and emissions reporting, and what resources exist to support them on this journey?

Depending on where the SME is in the supply chain and what their function is, there are several ways for them to engage with life cycle assessment and support the decarbonisation of the built environment. For support on any specific scenario please reach out to the Toitū team so we can understand what the best solution could be.

Toitū Envirocare currently engage with many SMEs and support them in the reduction of their organisational emissions as well in the products that they offer to the market.

04. Are there particular products or methods that have been found to help reduce carbon in LCAs?

When it comes to life cycle assessment it almost always depends on the context. Most products and methods have a situation where they are best applied to either reduce embodied carbon through their product, longevity or durability. For specific scenarios we recommend contacting qualified professionals to provide advice. You can also talk to the Toitū team for more information on this.

05. As a sub-contractor we are required to complete extensive 'Pre Qual' documents on sustainability / environment for the main contractor. Each of these requests are in a different format asking for variations of the same information. How can we standardise this process i.e. a standard document across the industry?

Standardisation of an approach across the industry is an ideal scenario. Unfortunately, this often only occurs through regulatory requirements establishing the baseline.

We can however increase standardisation through industry bodies determining good/best practice approaches to these requirements. Our Toitū enviromark programme standardises an approach and enables systematic development and improvement of a credible environmental management system. We also coordinate with other tools and standards to ensure there is minimal duplication of reporting.

06. A supplier in our network was quoted $50k-$70k for an EPD - do we expect the cost of analysis to come down to ensure the SME suppliers in the industry can keep their businesses going through the transition?

We do anticipate the costs to decrease, especially as different reporting protocols become more common, as an alternative to EPDs. We currently offer a product certification programme which provides a similar level of reporting to EPDs. Please contact the Toitū team for more specific information.

Toitū are currently reviewing how we can best support the construction product supplier sector while aligning and meeting the regulatory and certification requirements of the industry. This is viewed as an important area for Toitū to support through the transition. We will share more as this evolves.

07. Does this work also look at horizontal infrastructure e.g. pavements, pipelines?

Yes, the assessment of LCA impacts can be applied across horizontal as well as vertical infrastructure. However, definition of functional unit, and calculations on use-stage might be slightly different than buildings.

08. Is LCA or EPD verification done on a regular basis, same as the Toitū carbonreduce program? If Yes, are the KPIs only associated to reduction in emissions at the user end or covers suppliers and other stakeholders emissions and processes around procurement, H&S, governance and controls as well?

All LCA/EPD verifications need to be verified on a regular basis depending on the specific programme rules. Emission reductions in these assessments can occur anywhere within the value chain, both upstream (with suppliers), downstream (with end users) as well as in the manufacture of the assessed ‘product’. Best practice is to implement emissions reductions throughout all life cycle stages.

09. How comprehensive is the data on Mechanical Electrical and Plumbing services in your LCA tool?

We are constantly updating and increasing our database of emissions factors to report on the most representative impact for the product/material in the model. However, building services is where there is some of the most limited data in the construction sector.

10. Is carbon intensity seen as being applied by local authorities building control to provide a ‘go or no go’ for building consent for a design submitted?

The current regulation pipeline under development by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) via the Building for Climate Change Programme plans to put in place carbon intensity benchmarks for both embodied carbon emissions and operational carbon emissions. This is planned to be controlled through the building code and as such reviewed when granting building consent by local authorities.

11. In the context of a wider theme, though the gains made through EPDs and LCAs can be valuable, are we better focusing on the source of the issue such as urban and city planning? Could we design away many of the issues by simply building less or reconsidering the permanence of our infrastructure?

Undertaking critical conversations such as these prior to project onset are an integral piece in the decarbonisation of the built environment and our society. These conversations are occurring in some forums and are certainly worth expanding upon as they allow for consideration of whether an activity or development needs to occur and/or how the activity or development will impact the wider society over its life cycle. It is almost always the most carbon efficient approach to investigate whether the brief and/or demand can be reframed to use existing resources. At Toitū Envirocare we would champion incorporating these considerations into those early, influential conversations prior to project commencement. However, the urban planning sector is not where we are actively involved, rather we are involved in influencing reductions at the organisational, product or project level which can be done effectively through consideration of the LCA methodology including the use of EPDs. For specific advice in the urban planning field, we would recommend reaching out to a professional in the sector.

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