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Sustainability is something that HERA is taking very seriously.

We see it as an important area to focus our research on to assist our industry improve their sustainability performance.

It’s no secret that we’re been making a lot of moves to get our industry prepared to play our part in reducing our emissions.

That is why we have green-lit the delivery of sustainability focused training and four research projects as part of our $100K sustainability research and training fund.


Research that drives innovation and positive change

We want to clear pathways of opportunity for our members. We see these particular projects as a way to identify a way in which we can improve our performance and drive the development of a strategy to play our part in creating a better Aotearoa.

These projects were selected following a call for projects to our members in March 2021 following a robust criteria and assessment process by our industry panel.


As a result, our key focuses are:

Development of carbon in steel training for engineers and architects/designers/specifiers

We’ll be working with university collaborators to develop training on the carbon credentials of steel for engineers, designers and architects.

This will be based on LCA and EPD data and HERA’s zero carbon steel carbon offset program, developed in collaboration with thinkstepANZ and EKOS.

An online corrosion category map

HERA has recently developed a GIS model covering the whole of NZ with shapefiles of the corrosion categories, based on Table 2 from TS3404 overlaid on the more general dataset that has been developed by NIWA and HERA and used for the maps in TS3404.

The resultant tool will enable users to search by address and determine the corrosion classification based on Table 2. This will also identify how close a site is to the boundary of a corrosion classification. Such sites may require more in-depth investigation before allocating a classification.

This tool will assist engineers to improve the specification of steel coatings for the correct macroclimate corrosion zone and therefore support the correct specification and also improved durability.

Development of numerical indentation simulation to facilitate structural steel reuse

Steel re-use has the potential of saving up to 96% of environmental impacts compared to new steel, so it significantly improves construction sustainability.

One of the hypothesised barriers to steel reuse is a concern related to steel properties. To reuse structural steel elements, it must be verified that they have not been subjected to their yield stress. To determine this, lab testing is required or conservative re-use assumptions must be made. Lab testing is intrusive and costly, so it likely to be amongst the most important barriers to structural element reuse.

This research will investigate the feasibility of non-intrusive, cost-effective approaches to estimate mechanical properties of structural steel to facilitate reuse.


This will include:

  1. development of required finite element models;
  2. sensitivity analysis of the numerical simulations results; and
  3. study of the role of non-intrusive test data, finite element analysis and mathematical frameworks in the estimation of steel mechanical properties.

Making steel the low carbon choice – formulating the vision to reality

Efforts are being made by steel mills in the development of “green” steel. We are rethinking how we use structures, and HERA’s steel carbon calculator is assisting designers in this space, by helping them to consider embodied carbon during the design of new steel structures.


The purpose of this research is to build upon these efforts by looking into the current state, latest developments, and potential of:

  • waste management and reduction for both structural, and non-structural, components;
  • the drivers and challenges with reusing and repurposing steel. This includes incorporating HERA’s proposal to develop a “material passport for structural steel reuse; and reviewing and incorporating where possible – current international guidance such as SCI P427 Structural Steel Reuse;
  • re-thinking the standard 50 or 100 years design life. How long is long enough? How do we balance climate resilience and durability? What do we need to know to design durable long-life structures in a changing climate? Such as the 100+ year high rise building or the 200+ year bridge?; and
  • Challenging how we design and build steel structures. For example, could we develop more material-efficient steel members and components? What constraints are there in our design of modular structures whose use and purpose are easily changed?

A literature review will be undertaken including recent publications issued by the Sustainable Steel Council. This will form the basis of the project with a hope to develop and disseminate guidelines to unlock the sustainability benefits of steel. We also believe this will lead to recommendations for future research as well.

Material passport for structural steel re-use

Structural steel materials have the potential to be re-used across multiple construction projects over time, as in certain circumstances (given the availability of required data), a quick initial review can be conducted to identify the suitability of reuse before demolition.

This research will aim to identify roadblocks and barriers to the re-use of structural steel. This project will first investigate the role of a data platform in facilitating steel re-use. Then a material passport decision-making framework will be developed.


To meet these aims, the research encompasses four main steps:

  1. investigate the status of reuse, recycle and landfill rate of structural steel in New Zealand;
  2. identify all barriers to reuse of steel in New Zealand;
  3. identify relevant data that is required to decrease barriers or encourage or reuse throughout the supply chain; and
  4. develop a material passport framework using the relevant data.

Low carbon design.

This is a $772K project titled “Circular design for a changing environment: a design framework to reduce construction waste, lifecycle embodied carbon, and to enhance the circular economy for construction materials, with a pilot for low-rise buildings” of which $150K funding has been received from BRANZ, funded by the building research levy.

As Aotearoa moves towards a low-carbon economy, the building and construction sector (accounting for 15-20% of our total carbon emissions), must step forward and actively acknowledge its vital role.

To assist the sector in addressing this challenge, this research project looks to develop a design framework to reduce construction waste, lifecycle embodied carbon, and to enhance the circular economy for construction materials, with a pilot for low-rise buildings.


A framework for success

So far, a key part of this project was a survey to better understand trends around sustainable design skills and interests and the barriers and initiatives to more sustainable outcomes and analysis of design barriers throughout the life cycle assessment modules.

An industry advisor group has also been established and consists of a range of key stakeholders, across a range of disciplines and building materials to help govern this important project for the sector which we believe will provide a significant step forward in the design of low carbon buildings.

While, initially focused on low-rise buildings, we intend to expand the scope to cover all building typologies.


More resources for our low carbon research project:

HERA receives $150k of funding from BRANZ

Meet our IAG members for our low carbon design research project


General Manager Structural Systems