Rise of the Green-empire

Photo/ NZGBC Facebook

Photo/ NZGBC Facebook

Policy Parrot says:

Green buildings are a farce.

Firstly green buildings are championed by an industry that is self promoting and eager to grow. These businesses have ingenuously attached their ideas and products to the notion ‘green’ and with a powerful lobby convinced everyone that building sustainable buildings are required to save the planet.

Utter cods-wallop and trite.

In New Zealand we have the Green Building Council. It offers services including certification for office buildings in the form of a star rating from 3-6 stars depending on how many points a building earns after evaluation. The cost for this ‘certificate’ is $100-150,000.

The Green Building Council is under threat from other similar rating organisations that have arrived or about to arrive from overseas and who will offer rival rating systems for building owners. Competition. Which system is better and who says any of them mean anything? Aren’t these organisations simply spruiker’s capitalising on the modern day popular trend?

Lets be clear – this is a rating industry masquerading under the banner ‘green’. It’s making loads of money selling certificates to building owners so that they in turn can sell or lease buildings to tenants who think (but don’t know) that the buildings are somehow better for the environment and lower costs.

But where is the proof?    

These loonies and subsequently half of our property industry ignorantly believe that green buildings are environmentally sustainable and lower energy use.

This is patently absurd and is utterly untrue.

In 2012 engineering firm Beca were engaged to prepare an audit of a 5-green star building in NZ (that shall remain nameless). Under scrutiny it turns out that the systems engaged were not performing to specification and were costing the tenant (through occupancy costs) substantially more than was budgeted. In short it didn’t save money – it cost more to run.

This example raises some interesting thoughts and this Parrot can’t help having a hack after reading this propaganda from the green industry that made the stuff website.

Green-building ratings are basically a marketing trick for building owners. Tenants decide its an important facet of occupancy to have a sustainable building for the green building credentials (its not really about efficient occupancy cost but the kudos) and so building owners go about doing what they have too in order to deliver such ratings and secure said tenants.

The question is what do these ratings mean to the environment they are protecting and then can the buildings be manipulated to achieve a high rating?

Well yes they can be manipulated and it means very little to the environment.

sustainablesteel_Green_StarHalf the points systems for a green rating is related to bullshit like bicycle parks, whether the products are natural and other totally irrelevant green taliban check list items such as proximity to public transport (oh like smelly diesel buses that are of course not green and environmentally friendly).

One can install an air conditioning system that has been on buildings since the 1970’s and achieve a 5 green star rating, despite the over abundance of emphasis in the rating systems on fresh air cycles.

All heavy frame office structures are made from concrete and steel and glass which are about as natural as it gets for building products. Half of our green-star rated buildings are clad with Alucobond which is about as manufactured as dura-seal wrapping on your kids school books and glazing coated with chemicals that in their raw form would make your skin fall off.

Half of Auckland’s 4 and 5 green star rated buildings are no more efficient and better for the environment than the un-rated buildings around them. They are made of the same materials and have similar mechanical systems. The distinction between a green building and a non rated building is narrow.

These rating systems are nothing more than a crock. Hook, line and sinker from tenant to landlord people are being convinced our buildings are better for it.

And they are not.

Green star ratings are a business and it is that businesses prerogative to convince you and I that the outcomes of their work is environmental sustainability.

As Beca found, these systems – which are said to save on operating expenses – are no more efficient than a building that doesn’t have them. Operating Expenses are as high on a green star rated building as any other building type. They still use the same electrical output and have similar maintenance costs. And it depends if the occupants utilise the systems I the more efficient manner.

So where is the efficiency? And what is the benefit?

Green-star systems look cool and appear to be future world but they are horrendously expensive and have little benefit.

This Parrot knows this blog will set living rooms on fire and cause an onset of counter claims and from greenies and those who have become indoctrinated to this green way of thinking.

The point is to set thought in motion. If green rating systems is a money making industry and if the systems can be manipulated and if green rated buildings are largely built of the same materials and use pretty much the same mechanical systems – then what point do they serve?

And more importantly what tangible benefit – a real quantifiable benefit – is actually being achieved for the environment?

In New Zealand its actually nothing. Perhaps some of these glamourised systems oversea work – but at what cost to install? Does the cost of the materials and systems outweighs the benefit to a tenant over a lease term? Does the extra rent paid by the tenant get offset by lower OPEX costs?

The answer is almost certainly no.


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  • cows4me

    Let me guess, the $100 certificate is a for a bivouac in the middle of the bush.

    • rockape

      Funny how the greenies ideas only work in areas of cumfort and good climate. In NZ Northland ,Tasman, the coremandell. In the US in California and intheUK Cornwall. Try living a Green lifestyle in the North of Scotland at Latitude 57 degrees N or in Alaska, how long would it take for the Yurte to seem a bad idea and electricity and the electric blanket seem a really good one!

      • cows4me

        Don’t get me wrong rockape some Melon building ideas I would love to try but the reality is many would simply be not allowed in urban environments. Take solar panels, imagine a city covered in these, you would have to wear wielding glasses everywhere.

        • rockape

          dont get me wrong C4M my newbuilt house is full of Green ideas being semi rural. From solar panels to worm driven sewage disposal; from insulation in walls roof and underfloor to my own water collection. For green principals Nah purely capaitalst. When they get Nuclear power down to the size of my laptop, I will have that too!

  • rockape

    I like the term Green empire, but perhaps evil should be inserted there somewere. How soon would it take for a Lab/Green government to take the choice out of this and make it compulsory. Thats what worries me most about election 2014, just how many green ideas will be thrust upon us to our cost and for little gain to us the individual.

    • Policy Parrot

      It’s already being tried. The Unitary Plan has inserted in it that all office buildings over 5000 sqm gross lettable area must be 5 green star rated. The only thing that benefits is the green building council who are trying to shut out the competitors.

      • AnonWgtn

        Who is going to pay the additional costs – Green Council – not blooming likely.

      • JC

        In Obama’s “green” jobs policy I note he includes the man who carts away your rubbish, ie, a green job or a green building is simply one of nomenclature.


  • flashman

    Most of what people refer to as “Green” building is just good design, like energy efficient building design – the $ payback of passive measures like extra insulation is huge. Insulation is incredibly cheap and beneficial. The Building Code was revised a few years back and the Code for insulation was increased, but not nearly enough. We could have had warm, dry, buildings with low power bills, at very little extra build cost. But the property developer lobby spiked it. They don’t want to spend a tiny precentage on the cost on something the client can’t immediately see, they just want to build something and flick it on. Very short sighted of the Govt. Before anyone asks, when we built our house we super-insulated for about $500 extra (that’s not a typo – hundred, not thousand) and our house is wrm and dry all year round, and we are on the electricity “low user” tariff becuase we use so little. Anyone can do, it’s just good design. And Green Star is PR bullshit.