Whole-of-life carbon assessment for new build projects at schools

Information, guidance and requirements for completing whole-of-life carbon assessments for new build property project designs at schools.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Architects and designers
  • Engineers
  • Project managers
  • Principals and tumuaki
  • Contractors and service providers
  • Boards
  • Proprietors


As part of Te Mahere Taiao, we are implementing embodied and operational carbon assessment requirements for Ministry-led new builds.

Te Mahere Taiao - The environmental action plan for school property

Our intention is to progressively incorporate carbon assessment and carbon reduction targets into business-as-usual processes (and our design standards) at a pace that the industry is capable of accommodating.  
We are starting with high-value projects, embodied carbon calculations, and simplified energy use calculations. In 2023, we will progress to lower-value projects and include operational carbon reporting.

This webpage will continue to be updated with the key information, requirements and tools required to undertake this work.

Current scope of requirements

What is a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?

LCAs are a standardised tool for the systematic and quantitative evaluation of the potential environmental impacts of a product or service. LCAs are holistic, considering, the production of materials, maintenance, replacement and material end-of-life activities (i.e disposal, recycling, reuse, etc.). This is called a whole-of-life, ‘cradle-to-grave’ approach of assessing environmental impact.


We have created 2 tools to support the integration of LCAs into the design process for new builds.

Guidance document 1.0

LCA guidance document [PDF, 2 MB]

  • Key background information on conducting an LCA.
  • Explanation of our expectations during the design process.
  • Explanation of the deliverables at each stage.

Report template 1.0

LCA report template [DOCX, 451 KB]

  • Comprehensive list of deliverables.
  • Outlines the process and modelling assumptions to follow.
  • Record assessment results in the template.

Tools and calculators

Design teams are currently able to use their preferred carbon assessment tools, including free-to-access calculators available through the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ). However, the tools used must be verifiable and aligned with EN15978, ISO 14040 and ISO 14044.

More guidance about tools, datasets and quantity inputs can be found in the Reporting Template.

Technical guidance and information

More information about conducting LCAs and sustainability can be found through the following links.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)

Whole-of-life embodied carbon assessment: Technical methodology – Building.govt.nz(external link)

Whole-of-life embodied carbon framework – MBIE(external link)

Transforming operational efficiency framework – MBIE(external link)

Building for climate change programme – Building.govt.nz(external link)


Zero-carbon research – BRANZ(external link)

Calculators and datasets – BRANZ(external link)

Ministry of Education

Designing schools in Aotearoa New Zealand

Te Mahere Taiao – The environmental action plan for school property

Carbon targets for new school buildings

It’s important that all other Ministry requirements are met when making decisions about selecting lower-carbon options, our priority is creating sustainable, fit-for-purpose schools.

We have set initial embodied carbon and operational energy targets for design teams to aim to meet with their building designs. Currently, these targets are not mandatory to meet.

Our initial priority is for project teams to use LCAs to inform decision making within the design process to minimise carbon emissions and achieve positive environmental outcomes.

As we learn more about the carbon emissions associated with our range of school building types, and the variables that impact emissions, we will progressively introduce more refined targets and provide updated guidance.

Targets as of 1st September 2022:

Embodied carbon 500kgCO2e/m2 for a 50-year life span (gross emissions*)
Operational energy 60kWh/m2/annum for thermal performance: heating and cooling and 60kWh/m2/annum for services efficiency: ventilation, hot water, lighting

*Excludes emission savings and the impact of end-of-life activities beyond the life cycle of the building. In LCA terms, this excludes module D where material reuse, recovery and recycling are accounted for and any potential gains from biogenic materials.

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