Supportive Policy Initiatives
Government is introducing policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and to support a higher value forest and wood processing industry. Collectively these initiatives when implemented are expected to result in greater use of timber in construction, including mass-timber and prefabrication.
The Mid-Rise Wood Construction Partnership between the Ministry for Primary Industries and Red Stag complements other initiatives by helping the New Zealand building industry to access:
- Design professionals with the latest knowledge on how to use mass-timber and prefabrication to best advantage in construction, under local conditions
- Case studies, reference building sites and open-source technical and performance data generated from a range of actual public and private reference buildings of various types
- Design support to explore the use of mass-timber and prefabrication for early stage projects, where material and construction system choices have yet to be made.
Besides the Mid-Rise Wood Construction Programme, the government initiatives that are expected to result in greater use of timber in construction include:
- Building for Climate Change Programme
- Government Procurement Guide to Reducing Carbon in Construction
- Carbon Neutral Government Programme
- Forestry and Wood Processing Industry Transformation Plan
The Government’s construction-related carbon reduction initiatives are materials agnostic. However, together with the Mid-Rise Wood Construction Programme and the Forestry and Wood Processing Industry Transformation Plan, initiatives are expected to help:
- Reduce emissions from construction by using wood in place of other materials with higher embodied emissions, where possible, and storing carbon in long-lived wood products
- Generate higher demand over time for engineered wood products, so economies of scale can reduce construction costs and encourage new export industries
- Increase New Zealand’s market resilience by diversifying markets for domestically processed wood products, and the range of products manufactured domestically
- Create more resilient forestry, wood processing, prefabrication and construction jobs
- Extract more economic benefit from logs currently exported, by adding value to them domestically
- Increase investment in the low emissions circular bioeconomy that increases efficiency and reduces emissions
- Support the One Billion Trees (1BT) initiative and the Zero Carbon Act
- Realise the productivity and improved health benefits of nature-connected-design for government employees, schools, hospitals, public buildings and residential tenants
- Realise the opportunities for mass timber buildings that store carbon over the life of the building, perform well in earthquakes, are faster and safer to build, are cost-competitive, and minimise waste and noise.
Building for Climate Change Programme
This initiative is managed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). It aims to reduce emissions from constructing and operating buildings, and ensure buildings are prepared for the future effects of climate change.
Information, incentives, innovation, and changes to building laws and regulations will drive change, so that in future, energy efficiency and carbon emissions will become core considerations when building.
To help achieve this, MBIE proposes setting mandatory measurement and reporting requirements for the whole-of-life embodied carbon emissions of a building, including from the materials used in construction, the construction process, construction waste, and the disposal at the end of its life.
The programme aims to promote greater public understanding of the designs and materials used in construction, and how to get an efficient building with a low climate impact, of which mass-timber and prefabricated construction are two options.
Government Procurement Guide to Reducing Carbon in Construction
MBIE is responsible for setting government procurement policy, and in June 2021 published a procurement guide to reducing carbon emissions in building and construction.
Typically, most whole-of-life embodied carbon from a building project is captured in the structural frame, floors and foundations. While the Guide is materials agnostic, technology developments in timber structural products and components, such as mass-timber and prefabrication, provide new opportunities to reduce embodied carbon by substituting higher-carbon materials, such as steel and concrete, with wood.
Whole-of-life embodied carbon from on-site construction can be reduced through:
- Good waste management
- Using local materials where possible to reduce transport emissions
- Making use of off-site construction methods, reducing less efficient on-site activities and site waste
These favour the use of prefabricated mass-timber construction.
Because government is the largest construction customer in New Zealand, its procurement policy can be used strategically to initiate growth beyond its own construction requirements.
The Government Procurement Guide to reducing carbon in construction is expected to trigger:
- Know-how uptake: This will encourage design and construction professionals, investors and developers to acquire the know-how needed to service growth in low-carbon government building projects
- Investment: This growth will generate demand for low carbon materials and systems. In turn, this will encourage investment in production and prefabrication capacity to meet demand growth
- Private sector demand: The know-how and production capacity gained in meeting low-carbon government requirements will also be used to meet private sector demand. This demand will benefit from a growing number of supply options
- Lower costs: Government and private sector demand, combined with modern production capacity, over time will result in economies of scale. This is expected to eventually lower the cost of construction, generating further demand and supply-side investment
- Added value: This increase in competitiveness is expected to boost exports of high value engineered wood products over time. For example, plywood exports, which include LVL, have averaged $3,900 / m3 as opposed to $120-150 / m3 for logs.
Carbon Neutral Government Programme
This long-term programme aims to make government organisations carbon neutral by 2025.
The programme, which was announced in December 2020, is managed jointly by MBIE, the Ministry for the Environment and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority.
Participating organisations will be required to:
- measure, verify and report their emissions annually
- set gross emissions reduction targets and longer-term reduction plans
- introduce a plan to reduce their emissions
- offset remaining gross emissions from 2025 to achieve carbon neutrality
This initiative will complement the Building for Climate Change and Government Procurement initiatives by including the operation and construction of buildings in the activities for which government agencies must report and reduce their emissions.
Forestry and Wood Processing Industry Transformation Plan
This initiative is led by Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service.
Government is planning for a low-carbon future in which the forestry and wood processing sectors will play a major role. Significant investment is required, not only in new planting, but also in transforming and expanding the domestic wood processing sector into a high-tech, high-value sector, and in developing new products and markets. To achieve this, the sector needs to make better use of the current forestry assets New Zealand has, plant more trees, and increase domestic processing.
The Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) is being developed to support the Government’s objectives for a productive, sustainable and inclusive economy and to contribute to net zero emissions by 2050.
The ITP is being worked up in partnership with industry, Māori, worker groups, and other interested stakeholders. The ITP will define the vision and lay out a set of actions for the Government and the sector to support and accelerate significant value-added activity across the forestry and wood processing value chain.
Areas under investigation include the use of wood for biofuel and the investment case for new wood processing and manufacturing capacity. In addition, a Timber Design Centre is being established to accelerate the uptake of timber design by connecting building industry professionals and contractors to sources of information and expertise.