A Carbon Neutral Faculty

Story by Gemma Winstanley

Faculty of Architecture and Design, 2017

Carbon Neutrality

In May 2008 Victoria University’s Faculty of Architecture and Design became the first of its type in the world to be certified carbon neutral.

This was achieved through a combination of creative and intellectual inquiry into issues of energy use and sustainability.

The carboNZero status, which was awarded, showcases the University’s role at the forefront of teaching and research in sustainable design.

Sustainability at the Faculty

Professor Gordon Holden contended that the Faculty had an "important position in reducing the significant impact the built environment has on the ecosystem by helping to change the way building and the larger built environments [are] planned".

Since 1997, the School of Architecture has offered a specialist elective course in Sustainable Architecture and in 2007 more than a third of the second-year cohort elected to take the course.

Staff specialising in sustainability have been taken on consistently by the Faculty since the 1990s in order to develop education and research in the topic.

Achieving Carbon Neutral Status

In late 2006 the course coordinator for Sustainable Architecture began to explore the possibility of the course becoming carbon neutral through a combination of emissions reduction and offset.

Carbon neutrality was seen as an excellent forum to discuss and raise awareness for sustainable design in the built environment and the effect of climate change in general; the scope of the exploration quickly expanded to the entire Faculty.

After securing sponsorship and central University funding a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory report was calculated for the year 2007.

The final figure was 341 tonnes of carbon emissions taken from direct sources such as gas and the vehicle fleet as well as indirect emissions such as flights, waste and the hiring of vehicles.

Electricity was excluded, as 100% of the Faculty’s electricity is generated by renewable sources (wind and hydro) and provided by Meridian Energy.

Following this, 200 tonnes worth of Gold Standard Carbon Credits were gifted from Meridian Energy on the condition that the Faculty would put together a GHG emissions reduction plan to target the future reduction of emissions. The remaining carbon credits were purchased with funding provided by the central University.

GHG Emissions Reduction Plan

Due to the cost of the carboNZero programme and the purchase of carbon credits the University decided not to pursue certification for the following year. However, steady progress was made in the reduction of emissions by the Faculty and the University as a whole.

By 2010 a waste reduction of 16.3% had been achieved and an energy reduction of 4.7%. The Faculty was using 40% less paper than in 2007.

In recent years sustainability and implementing environmental policy have become priorities for the University with the establishment of an environmental committee and the position of Assistant Vice-Chancellor of Sustainability.

The Continuing Discussion

The carboNZero certification that Victoria University’s Faculty of Architecture and Design achieved in 2008 proved the importance of mitigating the effects of climate change to the Faculty and established their leadership in education and research in the field of sustainable design and the built environment.

Though the Faculty has not been carbon certified since, significant efforts have been made by the Faculty to reduce its GHG emissions, achieving its original goal of raising discussion and awareness of the subject.

Dean Marc Aurel Schnabel has referred, in the Dominion Post, to the Faculty's 2008 carbon neutral status and its ongoing commitment to research and issues of sustainability and called on the government to make ambitious targets to lower carbon emissions.

A condition of the gift of carbon credits from Meridian Energy was to create and implement a plan to reduce the Faculty's carbon footprint and to further its culture related to sustainability, teaching, and research.

This was exemplified by the Faculty-designed, and Meridian-sponsored, First Light House, entered into the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon in 2011.

Find the Faculty

Faculty of Architecture and Design, 139 Vivian St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand