Material Use

Specifying efficient use of materials and considering their impact from manufacture to disposal.

Material Use

Building materials account for a significant proportion of all material use worldwide, and construction and demolition waste accounts for over a third of all solid waste generated.

Building materials have an environmental impact at every step of the building process – from extraction of raw materials to processing and manufacturing, transportation, construction and eventual disposal at the end of a building’s useful life.

The impact can be significant – some materials require large amounts of energy in their production, others may be polluting or hazardous to building occupants. Appropriate selection can ensure efficient use, low environmental impact and minimising waste generated, which will result in improvements in the cost-effectiveness, energy efficiency and, ultimately, the comfort of a building.

This section focuses specifically on the sustainability and environmental impact of materials.

Some building and construction products have qualified for the Environmental Choice New Zealand label. They include thermal insulation, flat and long steel products, cement and ready mixed concrete.

New Zealand statutory requirements

A key purpose of the Building Act 2004 is that buildings are designed, constructed and used in ways that promote sustainable development. Under the Act, designers, builders, local authorities and building owners must consider:

  • minimising waste during construction
  • using sustainable materials
  • using safe and healthy materials
  • energy conservation and efficiency of materials and systems
  • the durability of materials.


Updated: 28 September 2016