Builder backlash to H1 upgrade begins It’s predictable but depressing. The sky is not falling.

11 April 2022 by Jason Quinn

And, it’s begun: the backlash to the update to the energy efficiency requirements in New Zealand’s Building Code announced last November. It’s been a long time since the last upgrade. The message from submitters was overwhelmingly in favour of improving energy efficiency through higher-performance windows, more insulation, and moving on to whole building energy performance measures rather than simple R-value metrics.

Those of us pushing for deep fundamental change were not happy with the outcome. As for those very few submitters that wanted no change whatsoever—well they were unhappy too with the middle-of-the-road strategy selected by MBIE. I’d have loved a clearer map to Building for Climate Change targets but at least it is an improvement and largely avoids unfortunate unintended consequences.

Now we have construction industry interests popping up and professing to be surprised and shocked by the change. This is politicking. MBIE’s consultation went on for a long time. All parts of the construction sector should have been paying attention, and much of it was. 

Many component suppliers invested in better performing product development in order to be able to meet the higher requirements. They got that underway before November’s announcement. They are now scaling up to meet the demand later this year when the current 12-month exemption expires and everyone must meet the updated Building Code. Almost all the window manufacturers for example got busy. We’ve been working with a number of them to energy model new and existing designs. Foundation and insulation manufacturers have been moving forward as well.

There will be impacts because changing requires … well, change. These changes are just getting us started and the industry needs to shift. Articles like the aforementioned one in the Master Builder Association’s magazine make it sound like industry was blindsided. Well only those parts of the industry that had their heads totally buried in the sand and with their fingers in their ears (“la-la-la I can’t heaaaaaar you”).

The sky is not falling for the construction industry because it now needs to slightly improve energy efficiency. It is not difficult—unless you just don’t want to change. That, sadly for the dinosaurs, is no longer an option. I am appalled to hear builders suggesting rushing to get projects completed under the exemption. Those new homes will be lived in for generations. And all they care about is making them as cheap (and as profitable) as possible, with no regard to their energy efficiency, occupant health and comfort or cost to run?

There is real urgency in our need to reduce carbon emissions (less than 1000 days? Yes, that counts as urgent.) Construction is a sector where multiple wins are available for the taking: we can save money in the long term, increase occupant health and wellbeing and reduce emissions. All at the same time, by using the same solutions. 

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