An online database set up late last year is helping product manufacturers and specifiers meet the demands of a marketplace increasingly concerned with sustainability.
Greenbuild, a joint venture between Building Research, Construction Information Ltd and Green New Zealand Ltd, launched in October last year.
It aims to provide the construction industry with a resource that makes it easy to compare the characteristics of building products available in New Zealand, with a particular emphasis on sustainability.
Greenbuild chief executive John Albert says the site started with 10,000 basic listings, which consist of a brief description of the product, plus a photo, and the manufacturer’s contact details.
However, manufacturers are increasingly upgrading their listings to include an environmental rating, following a Greenbuild-designed assessment process.
Greenbuild’s environmental assessments grade products in five impact categories: energy use, human health, pollution, resource efficiency and land use. This not only provides a broad range of information for product users, it also provides a useful template for manufacturers looking to improve their environmental performance, Mr Albert says.
“Greenbuild allows manufacturers to assess where they need to improve, and to compare the way they are working with what their competitors are doing, in a way that a simple pass/fail system does not.
“Ultimately, the market will dictate the required product standards. Greenbuild gives manufacturers an opportunity to see whether they are measuring up, and a cost-effective way to get independent advice on what to do if they are not,” Mr Albert says.
Manufacturers are given an environmental product declaration consisting of more than 200 questions about their product, and asked to furnish with documentary proof to back their claims. These applications are reviewed by expert assessors, and the results posted on the Greenbuild web site.
Mr Albert says Greenbuild is currently working through the assessment process with 25 manufacturers.
“Demand for sustainable products is increasing. Manufacturers recognise that, and want to meet that demand,” he says.
The New Zealand Green Building Council’s Green Star rating system, which assesses the environmental impact of offices, is one innovation that is helping to drive that demand.
“Both government and the private sector are requiring architects to design Green Star-rated buildings that reflect people’s increasing concern with the environmental impact of the buildings in which they live and work,” Mr Albert says, citing Meridian’s recently-completed Wellington head office as a prominent example of this growing trend.
With materials contributing 10% of a building’s total Green Star rating, architects, engineers, and others involved in the design process have a good reason to specify environmentally-sustainable products.
“Greenbuild allows architects and designers chasing a Green Star-rated building, as well as those who simply want to incorporate sustainability into their own business practices, to specify products that have been assessed by Greenbuild as to whether or not they contribute Green Star credits.”
With plans to link to the Masterspec specification system, and further improvements to Greenbuild’s functionality under way, the database is set to become an essential tool for the building community, Mr Albert says.
“Sustainability is a serious business for our industry. Greenbuild is designed to be a one-stop shop that gives users the product information they need to make the right decisions, as well as access to the latest industry news and views, and an opportunity to compare notes and share opinions with their peers.”