Case Study 7: Construction Managers with Sustainability Know-How

Bachelor of Construction Management

4.Sustainable Materials

Who is involved?

Unitec offers a Bachelor in Construction Management which leads graduates into roles as contract, site, construction, project, and construction site managers or project planners, architectural technicians and property developers. 64% of Unitec’s construction students are saying that knowledge of sustainable practices is very important to their future employment. The degree offers this with sustainability fully integrated throughout the qualification.

Two key staff take a lead on this: Associate Professor Dr Linda Kestle (PhD. Cant., MPhil(Architecture). Auck, GC Antarctic Studies Cant., DipBldg (Hons)., NZCD.), who teaches the Sustainable Design and Construction (CONS 6007) course within the degree and Senior Lecturer Roger Birchmore (MPM., BTech (Hons)., CEng., MCIBSE.), a building systems expert who believes in passive design first. They work alongside a team of highly qualified and experienced industry professionals and educators to teach the programme.

What happened?

Like many of Unitec’s programmes sustainability has been embedded across the Bachelor of Construction Management, with content and assessment covering the elements of sustainability relevant to each subject taught. This sits alongside a specialised course in Sustainable Design and Construction (CONS 6007) which draws together these elements into an applied assessment where students are given a site and project brief and tasked with creating a sustainable design solution and preparing a construction environmental management plan.

The creation of a good thermal envelope to maximise energy efficiency and comfort levels is central to the degree, along with management of moisture, passive solar design, material selection, systems, waste minimisation and natural ventilation. Sustainable construction management touches many issues and these are progressively addressed throughout the degree, allowing students to build a sound knowledge of sustainable construction practices, for example:

  • In Technology 4 (CONS 6104) students complete a project, evaluating a design for a six-level commercial building with a series of diverse tenancies and look at how to address these. They evaluate both the interior fit out and external envelope system, examining:
    • Compare building envelope cladding systems
    • Compare building fit out systems
    • Sustainable materials
    • Durability
    • Demountable partitions
    • Ease of maintenance
    • Fixings
    • Recurring embodied energy load
  • In PNO 2 students create a construction management plan which includes a waste management plan.

What was the Outcome?

As construction managers Unitec graduates will often not be involved in the initial design and development of a building project, but they are heavily involved and very influential in its implementation on site. This is where their awareness of sustainable site management, construction techniques, materials and systems comes into play.  This awareness leads to an appreciation of the impact of the decisions made by others and allows them to work collaboratively with a good understanding of the language used in design.

Their ability to offer solutions and alternatives which maintain or enhance the sustainability, indoor air quality, water and energy performance of the building add significant value to both clients and employers.

 Links to related Sustainability Approaches and Resources:

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority

New Zealand Green Building Council



Passivhaus Institute of New Zealand

Living Building Challenge