Survey establishes industry’s future research and information needs

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Energy use and efficiency, followed by sustainability and environmental issues, were seen as the two most important areas for future research, according to the results of a survey of the construction industry.

 

The survey was undertaken for Building Research, the independent industry association owned and directed by the construction industry, by Research New Zealand.

 

Building Research uses this annual survey as one of its measures to identify the industry’s priorities for future research and information, and to help guide its investment of the Building Research Levy.

 

Building Research chief executive Sunil Vather says the industry has been surveyed annually since 1995.

 

“We believe it is significant that the issues identified as being the most important this year — energy use and efficiency, and sustainability and environment issues — ranked more highly than those associated with weathertightness,” Dr Vather says.

 

“This suggests the industry is looking for ways to ensure the built environment is not only fit for purpose, but that it is energy efficient and environmentally sustainable.”

 

The survey covered builders, subcontractors, architects, designers, building product manufacturers, building owners and managers, and central and local government.

 

They said the four highest-ranking priority research areas were energy use and efficiency (75% importance rating), sustainability and environment issues (65%), materials performance (63%) and building envelope performance, including weathertightness (61%).

 

Last year’s survey ranked the building envelope as the most important research area, and in 2005 materials performance (including weathertightness) was seen as the most important.

 

The 2007 survey was undertaken during June and July, and 218 completed questionnaires were received, a response rate of 33%.

 

Building Research invests the Building Research Levy to ensure New Zealand’s construction sector reflects international best practice. Under the Building Research Levy Act, builders are required to pay a levy on all construction contracts over $20,000 at a rate of $1 per $1000.

 

The Act requires the levy to be used “for the purposes of promoting and conducting research and other scientific work in connection with the construction industry”.

 

Activities funded range from seminars for builders and designers to high-level scientific research. This year Building Research has budgeted $8.475 million to invest on research and information transfer, an increase of around 20% on 2006-2007.

 

Around $2.8 million of that investment is earmarked for information and technology transfer, and providing independent research-based advice to those in the industry.

 

This advice includes seminars, BRANZ Bulletins, and an 0800 Advisory Service.

 

Information transfer takes place by way of BUILD magazine, part-funded by the levy and published by Building Research’s subsidiary BRANZ Ltd, and Builder’s Mate, a four-page bulletin series written specially for frontline builders.

 

Building Research is currently funding four energy research projects, including the Household Energy End-use Survey, and research into the energy efficiency of non-residential buildings.

 

It is also funding four sustainable building projects, and is a shareholder and partner of Beacon Pathway Ltd, the sustainable residential buildings research consortium.

 

Information on Building Research funded research can be found at www.buildingresearch.org.nz.

 

Building Research has also commissioned information and seminars on weathertightness, including weathertightness details for roof/wall junctions.

 

Two other projects under way include helping fund the development of the Level web site (www.level.org.nz) to promote sustainable building practices, and working with industry partners on the development of the GreenBuild web site (www.greenbuild.co.nz).

 

Other initiatives have included the production of publications, and eco-advisory initiatives with several city councils.

 

Deciding where investment will be made is a responsibility Building Research takes very seriously, Dr Vather says.

 

“This survey is obviously a key input,” he says.

 

“Other inputs include monitoring overseas trends, New Zealand Building Code developments, Standards reviews, and government policies.

 

“The investment programme must help foster best practice across the sector and advance our goal of delivering a built environment that is highly valued by New Zealanders, and results in a better quality of life,” Dr Vather says.