UPL is switching from using natural gas to using electricity and other more sustainable options for more than 100 dwellings it’s planning to build over the next two years. It’s also committed to build at least one Homestar® rated house or townhouse this coming year, in what’s believed to be a first for Lower Hutt. Homestar® is an independent rating tool that measures the health, warmth and efficiency of houses.
According to the NZ Green Building Council, New Zealand’s built environment is responsible for 20 percent of the country’s carbon footprint and emissions from the construction industry have increased by 66 percent in the decade from 2007- 2017.
UPL Chief Executive Craig Walton says the construction and related property services industry has a significant role to play in reducing emissions.
“We want to significantly reduce any harm and impact on the environment and we encourage others in the building industry to consider what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint,” he said.
“UPL has scope to do this in a number of more sustainable ways when building, especially during the material selection phase and minimising waste during the construction process. We also want to apply best practice in terms of passive design in areas like insulation. Our aim is to minimise energy consumption promoting warmer, dryer and healthier homes at minimal cost to the occupier.
“Our shareholder, Hutt City Council, has set a net zero carbon target and we want to do everything we can to help achieve this by incorporating sustainability features in the dwellings we are designing and developing. This includes using electricity and water saving features minimising building waste and making buildings ready for charging electric vehicles.”
Hutt City Council Manager Sustainability and Resilience Jörn Scherzer says changing the way we power our homes will be essential in moving to zero carbon.
“Energy emissions in Lower Hutt make up 35% of our city’s total emissions so relatively small changes can have a big impact. In a household that has three showers per day all up, the greenhouse gas emissions associated with a heat pump or solar water heater are approximately 80% lower than when using gas. Over 15 years each home could avoid up to 12 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions,” says Scherzer.
At the end of 2018 Hutt City Council set an organisational target of being zero carbon by 2050. This extended to Council Controlled Organisations like UPL. A possible approach to develop a Lower Hutt Zero Carbon Plan to achieve city-wide emission reductions will be presented to council later in the year.
Council is also actively exploring relevant initiatives to lower its carbon footprint in other business areas, such as the management of energy at its own facilities and its vehicle fleet, and when it considers key investments, such as pools and hubs.
UPL builds and manages rental properties for the elderly and builds new dwellings for sale, some of which have pre-set sales prices making them more affordable. Profits from the sale of these properties are invested back into UPL’s public housing portfolio. UPL will be working to implement sustainable building practices immediately and anticipates that the construction of the first Homestar® rated dwelling will lead to many more.