EPD Australasia

PROFILE: Sam Archer, Director of Market Transformation, NZGB and Board Member, EPD Australasia Ltd

Sam Archer has nearly two decades of experience as a mechanical engineer and sustainability consultant. He created and managed the sustainability framework for a 3,000-home development for the University of Cambridge, has worked extensively in sustainability and energy strategies including carbon policy work for the UK government, sustainable urban design and low energy and passive building design.

Currently Director of Market Transformation for the NZ Green Building Council, Sam is responsible for running the sustainability and energy assessment tools: Green Star, Homestar and NABERSNZ.

We are delighted that Sam has recently joined the Board of Directors of EPD Australasia Ltd. We spoke to him recently about his experience with green buildings and how EPDs fit into the sustainability equation.

How did you first become involved in green building design?

I was lucky enough to start my career with an excellent Building Services design firm in London called Max Fordham. They specialise in low energy, environmentally friendly building design.

This was in the early 2000s when sustainability rating tools, like BREEAM, first started being used. It was also when consciousness about carbon emissions from buildings really started to evolve.

What role do you see EPDs playing in creating more sustainable cities?

Of course EPDs look at more than just carbon, but it’s been great to see the explosion of interest in embodied carbon in buildings in recent years so that, for me, is going to be the strongest focus of EPDs.

The recent report we did with thinkstep looking at embodied emissions from New Zealand buildings has taught me a lot. The main conclusions were that the majority of emissions come from a small number of building materials. Clearly EPDs are going to be useful for suppliers of those materials to show that they are working to bring their emissions down compared with their peers.

I don’t believe that full lifecycle analysis needs to be carried out on every building project, but we are seeing clients and designers of major projects wanting to set long-term trajectories to bring down embodied emissions, and NZGBC really welcomes this leadership.

You are responsible for management of the Green Star project.  How have EPDs helped in managing this sustainability tool?

We launched a new version of Green Star called Design and As-Built last year. This now has lifecycle analysis integral to the assessment and I’m certain this will drive more projects to take this approach. Our most recent 6 Star building, Mason Brothers, in the Wynard Quarter of Auckland, got points for doing lifecycle analysis. The building was a major refurbishment of an old industrial building and showed just how good this kind of adaptive reuse can be, and how much carbon can be saved from not having to build a new structure.

What do you predict will be the future of LCA and EPDs in this region?

The future looks good. New Zealand has a very low carbon electricity grid (thanks mainly to lots of hydro-dams) so in a simplistic sense getting operational emissions down is easy: you just have to electrify all the energy use.

Getting upfront emissions from the construction stage down is much harder so I suspect there will be a lot of focus on this. New Zealand’s recent climate change act and associated climate change commission will, I am sure, be taking a look at emissions from building products and materials so EPDs are important for this.

We will continue to advocate for LCA and EPDs being carried out on major projects and have close links with BRANZ and their LCAQuick tool for doing this.

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