The construction industry is responsible for 20% of New Zealand’s total carbon emissions and yet the sustainable and efficient offsite manufacturing sector continues to be overlooked as a solution.
When the draft Climate Commission Consultation on reducing emissions was released, I thought surely, given our focus on finding solutions to our housing crisis offsite manufacturing will feature as a light at the end of the dark tunnel that is construction waste. But no. It is apparently better to keep focused on tweaking the old ways than to shift focus to new and innovative solutions.
Most of the focus is on performance of a building or home once it is built — thermal performance, low heat, light and energy needs. While we applaud the Government for taking a stand on renewable, clean energy and reducing our usage through better performing products, the gap that is left is construction and demolition waste. The industry is all too happy to fill skip bins with damaged, over ordered, poorly stored, and badly measured material swept up from building sites up and down the country. It is starting to talk about better managing construction site waste. I suggest we don’t deliver materials to a building site in the first place if there is a better option available.
Offsite manufacturing uses precise technology, design principles and manufacturing processes to minimise waste, optimise materials and when used effectively, means the onsite assembly is achieved more efficiently. All this adds up to less. Less building material in the skip at the end of the day. Less product wasted and even used in the first place. Less fuels used in delivering products to site and energy in manufacturing. And when it comes to saving the planet, less is best.
The short sightedness of not looking at the entire lifecycle of a building is like putting a sticking plaster over a cracked damn wall and hoping it will all hold together. We could be making a difference well before anyone is living or working in the building. We should also be building with an end in sight where buildings can be reused, recycled and repurposed in years to come rather than bulldozed so something new can take its place.
New Zealand has been a world leader in innovation in extreme sports, adventure tourism and engineering. If we are happy to be the first to climb a mountain, throw ourselves off a bridge with only bands of rubber around our feet, to build engines that power a boat in ankle deep water, build rockets to explore space, then where is our aspiration to be world leaders in construction?
The offsite sector is here to be part of the discussion, the solution and the future of a cleaner, greener more sustainable construction sector. Let the Kiwi innovators have a voice and the government, industry and public backing to truly make a change. We can no longer be left out of the discussion on a sustainable construction sector. OSM must be at the table to be part of New Zealand’s sustainable solution. Waiting for the housing crisis to end before change is made will be too late. Our future generations rely on us taking action now.