New Zealand Seeks to Modernise Old Buildings to Meet 2050 Target

Auckland City skyline at nightBuilding retrofits for old buildings in New Zealand will be necessary to achieve a carbon-neutral target by 2050, according to Lee Bint, a BRANZ sustainable building scientist.

Bint said that more than 33,000 commercial towers in the country have been existing for 10 years. These buildings account for over 81 per cent of 41,000 non-residential structures.

Green Star ratings

Sustainability for new buildings is important since most buildings under construction will still be used up to 2100, according to Bint. However, the focus should also be on retrofitting existing ones for better productivity, improved public health and lesser impact on the environment. The recently launched Green Star Performance tool will serve as a catalyst for change. The rating system will evaluate old buildings from hospitals, offices and schools with zero to six stars.

Buildings with a five-star rating denote compliance with New Zealand standards, while those with six stars indicate world-class performance. Textured wall cladding will be a key feature for building retrofits since energy serves as one category under the new rating system. Other categories include indoor environment quality, emissions, land use and ecology.

Commercial investment

The subject of retrofitting commercial properties comes as more investors buy non-residential buildings. In Hawke’s Bay, for instance, real estate agents have noticed a higher interest in properties as investors move away from the Auckland market.

Even assets with lower yields have become attractive for investors. Paul Whitaker, Property Brokers regional manager, said that more people have inquired about lower-yield assets amid falling residential rates. As long as these buildings have good tenants and leases, investors are willing to accept slightly smaller investment returns, according to Whitaker.

The Green Star Rating may encourage more real estate developers to retrofit existing buildings, as it could be a selling point for potential investors that look for sustainable commercial properties.