Sustainable Buildings (PDF 118kb)                 

Whether you are building or renovating, constructing buildings that are sustainable can both meet the needs of the present generation, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable building means designing, constructing and operating buildings with low environmental impacts.  

The Benefits of Sustainable Buildings                 

There are many benefits that come with sustainable homes. A well-designed sustainable home is:

  • Warmer and drier - with good levels of quality insulation and by utilising natural sunlight and ventilation, you can maintain a warm and dry home all year round. 
  • Safer and healthier - a sustainable home can help eliminate damp conditions where mildew and toxic mould thrive. Cold and damp conditions contribute to family health problems such as colds, flu's and respiratory diseases such as asthma. 
  • Cheaper to operate - careful selection of heating options, incorporating good passive solar design, and using energy and water-efficient appliances can make homes cheaper to operate. Some options cost you nothing, while others may require initial set-up costs but save you money in the long-run. Current research also suggests that sustainable houses hold their re-sale value compared with other houses. 
  • Enjoyable to live in - a dry, warm, and lower running cost house makes a home more enjoyable to live in. Often good design can also reduce noise and glare. 
  • Has less impact on the environment - a house that is designed, constructed and operated (through sustainable household practices) can minimize the total environmental impacts by helping to conserve resources and producing less waste.

If you are planning on building or renovating, there are many choices available to you to achieve a sustainable home. These everyday choices in materials and design really do make a difference to the long term sustainability of our houses. With planning and good management, no matter where you live, you can design, build, renovate, maintain and run a sustainable home. 

New Homes                                                              

When considering building a new home, it is essential to consider sustainability options during the entire design and construction process. Building sustainable homes have benefits for you, the immediate user, but also to future generations and the environment. A key purpose of the Building Act 2004 is that buildings are designed, constructed, and able to be used in ways that promote sustainable development. The New Zealand Building Code requires that designers, builders, developers, local authorities and building owners consider:

  • the use of energy and use of renewable sources of energy
  • the use of materials and material conservation
  • the use of water and water conservation
  • the reduction of waste during construction

The Building System Performance branch of MBIE has published (on their website factors that you should consider when designing and constructing a sustainable home, such as:

  • Design - designing a house to meet your needs and take advantage of its location to save power, water and money                                                                                                      
  • Energy - information about saving energy, and on your power bills
  • Water - information on water efficiency
  • Siting and landscaping - thinking about location and planning your home and section accordingly
  • Materials - choosing building materials with the environment and people in mind
  • Construction - pros and cons of different types of house construction

Existing Homes

Whether you are renovating or maintaining an existing home, you can enjoy the same benefits that come with living in a new sustainable home. Tenants can also live more sustainably in their flat or apartment, simply by choosing better household practices.  

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ) have published extensive information about developing sustainable buildings online at:                                       


Or check out the sustainability links below for further information and resources.

Commercial Buildings                  

New Zealand companies and businesses can also build and operate sustainably. For information on how to reduce costs and increase competitiveness through energy efficiency and renewable energy practices check out

Families and Individuals

Sustainability is not just about building or renovating - we can all play a part in reducing the impact we have on the environment. Living sustainably means making decisions that will help the future generations. New research and technology is emerging all the time to help us be more energy efficient. Check out some of the links below for ways to save energy and live more sustainably. 

Conventional or non-conventional designs - how to meet compliance

All buildings build in New Zealand - whether conventional or more innovative designs - must meet the minimum health and safety performance requirements of the New Zealand Building Code. There are two ways performance to the Building Code can be met:

  • Following the Acceptable Solutions or use verification methods. Acceptable solutions are like a recipe. There is one recipe book for each building code clause. If you design and build according to these solutions, you can't go wrong. Verification methods on the other hand are ways to test or calculate the performance of your design. Acceptable Solutions and Verification Methods are published together for each of the building code clauses under Building Code Compliance. These are free and can be downloaded from the MBIE website.
  • Using an Alternative Solution which the designer creates to allow for something different and/or innovative solutions. If you choose this method then you must demonstrate that your design will meet the performance requirements relevant to the Building Code clauses. Check out the MBIE website (alternative solutions) on how to provide the necessary evidence.

At the end of the day regardless of what you design, conventional or more innovative, you must be able to demonstrate compliance with the Building Code. Remember this is just about meeting the minimum requirements to ensure the health and safety of people using the building. Obviously if you want to, you can choose to design and build something with a far superior performance than the building code's minimum standards..


To find out what the Building Code requires you can either download The Building Code or download the relevant acceptable solutions which have the building code clauses in the front.



Sustainable Building

  • Level - this website has been developed for the construction industry by BRANZ to help you design and build more sustainable homes in NZ.
  • BRANZ - guides for Eco Building and sustainable construction, including The Easy Guide to Eco-building, and Being A Climate Friendly Kiwi.
  • Homestar - helps you improve the performance of your home, making it better to live in, better for the planet and better value in the market. Website includes a free on-line test that gives you a Homestar rating (between 1 and 10).
  • Smarter Homes - provides information about sustainable home design, building and lifestyle options for home owners and renters, potential house buyers and building industry professionals.    
  • New Zealand Green Building Council - has information about standards of best practice, information about Green Star rating tool and access to information and resources.
  • Eco Design Advisors - an initiative of BRANZ and offered by select Councils to provide free energy, water and material related advice for designers / architects, builders and homeowners about sustainable building.  


  • Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority - this site provides information and tools about energy efficiency, energy conservation and the use of renewable sources of energy for all New Zealanders. This site also contains information about renewable energy: bio-energy, hydro energy, marine energy, solar energy and wind energy.
  • Energywise - a website from EECA with information for householders on home energy efficiency, government funding for home insulation and heating systems, energy labelling schemes, and ways to improve energy choices.
  • Climate Change Information - information about New Zealand's emissions, emissions trading, projected impacts, international negotiations and obligations, and New Zealand's overall approach to climate change.
  • Rightlight - helps you make better informed decisions about lighting for your home, business and region.  
  • Resource Efficiency in Building and Related Industries (REBRI) - REBRI is found on the BRANZ site and is about resource efficiency, using materials, energy, time and money more effectively; and provides information for industry professionals about assessing, planning and managing waste.

Living Sustainably                                  

  • Energystar - New Zealand's mark of energy efficiency for products, typically the top 25% most energy efficient products by category. Located on EECA site (under ratings and labels)
  • Energywise - practical information and advice to assist you in making energy efficient choices at home and on the road.
  • Rightlight - smarter choices about lighting for home or workplace to reduce power bills and being energy aware in lighting design (while building or renovating).
  • Smarter Homes - contains information on energy savings e.g., appliances, lighting, solar heating; information on water savings (indoor and outdoor), collecting rainwater, grey water use etc.
  • Solar Water Heating  - has information on solar water heating uses of the sun's rays to heat water, and case studies.
  • Sustainability - together we can really help the environment with these 25 easy steps towards sustainability. This advice booklet on the Ministry for the Environment website offers information on some of the easiest things you can do to help the environment when you’re at home and or out and about travelling. Beacon pathway website has a vision for better living by being home smart. BRANZ website got several topics on sustainable living and design.
  • Water Conservation - grey water systems
    • RMIT University and Australian Government 's Urban Greywater Design and Installation Handbook  (1 of 3 Australian guides giving essential information when considering installing a grey water system).
      Note: this file is slow to load due to the size. See the archives of this website for more information about grey water requirements.
    • Oasis Design - website including ecological system design, water storage, rainwater harvesting, grey water information, and more...

Please note that any plumbing or drainage system must be approved by your local Council and installed by the appropriate qualified tradesperson.

Products / Appliances                                                              

  • Beacon - a research website which contains information on the latest research on sustainable design and renovation. This site Includes case studies on new and existing homes, and information about neighbourhood sustainability.
  • Eco-Specifier - an Australasian online database of materials, products and technologies.
  • Miproducts - a New Zealand online database of building products for industry professionals.   
  • Micro Generation - a website about generating electricity on your own property. Another resource on the EECA site.
  • REBRI -  Resource Efficiency in Building and Related Industries.
  • Rightlight -  information on efficient light bulbs, and being energy aware in lighting design (building or renovating). 
  • Timber - Good Wood Guides
  • WANZ - Window Association of New Zealand - information about double glazing and thermal performance 
  • WEERS - Window Energy Efficiency Rating System - coordinated by the Window Association of New Zealand.

Case Studies

Search the Resources & Tools of EECA Energywise for information and case studies on energy efficiency in building, energy supply, technology, and case studies: renewable energy.

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Page last updated: 2016-05-31

Hauraki Matamata Piako Waitomo Otorohanga Waipa Waikato Hamilton