As the construction industry, and the society within which we operate, seeks mitigations to our
present climate emergency, structural engineers are seeking ways to transform from part of
the problem, to part of the solution. In this paper, the Author examines the barriers that face
practicing engineers in the meaningful implementation of low-carbon structures, and how those
barriers might be hurdled, either by individual design teams, or by the industry at large.
This paper will first consider industry or society wide issues. This will include: New Zealand’s
minimal regulatory environment and lack of green property market drivers in comparison to
other countries; and the relative lack of readily available carbon calculation information for the
New Zealand supply chain’s carbon impact.
It will then consider common project level challenges, including: Client and industry
perceptions on cost; the dominance of operation carbon impact on building sustainability
decision making and the impact of their inapplicability to embodied carbon impacts; and the
dearth of reliable, local, benchmark data available to design teams.
Finally, it will consider some of what are, in the author’s opinion, the biggest technical
challenges. This will include the current environmental impact of New Zealand concrete based
construction, and some simple improvements that any project could adopt; and enormous
improvements in embodied carbon available via timber construction, alongside some of the
ways that the timber industry is making it difficult to make timber structures feasible in New
For each of these challenges, some of the solutions available to practicing engineers will be
discussed. Both established solutions available internationally, and nascent New Zealand