Posted 25 May 2018 by Alex Williams

New Zealand furniture, fittings and flooring manufacturers with the Environmental Choice New Zealand (ECNZ) label have just received a big boost for their business prospects in Australia.

That follows Level A recognition of the ECNZ specification for furniture, fittings and floorings by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA). In a first for ECNZ, the recognition means the 11 current ECNZ licensees supplying those products will be eligible to have their certification acknowledged in Australia and receive Green Star credits there, says ECNZ General Manager Francesca Lipscombe. “This is excellent news and a real breakthrough for us.”

Products need to meet the requirements of the recently revised specification – EC-32-17. This comes at no additional cost for existing licensees who must meet the new requirements by November 2018 to maintain their licence.

Products covered include indoor and outdoor furniture, fittings such as partitions, window frames and wall furniture or shelves, panels used to make furniture or fittings, indoor lining products for walls and ceilings, and indoor flooring that is fixed to a concrete base or wooden beams.

Francesca says EC-32-17 verifies that the products are “environmentally preferable”, with minimal environmental impact through their life cycle – from raw materials sourcing, through manufacturing and use, to eventual disposal or recycling. She says the biggest environmental impact with the products arises during the sourcing and processing of the materials used. “Where the materials are natural such as wood or bamboo, their origin – a sustainably managed forest for instance - is important; likewise, any materials that come from mining operations, such as fibre cement boards – the mine must have remedial plans in place.

“Processing of the materials can also involve hazardous substances like preservatives, additives and dyes, which can be emitted from the products in use, such as formaldehyde, or leak into the environment when the products are disposed of via landfill or incineration.”

The specification seeks to minimise the environmental effects in each of those areas to an acceptable standard, but also to encourage products that are durable and have a long life and can be reused or recycled, says Francesca.

“Our aim is to encourage sustainable production of the raw materials, reduce the use of hazardous substances and associated discharges, and prolong the useful life of the products and their component parts.”

Francesca says the ECNZ team spent several months reviewing the specification to find a way to offer the added value of Australian recognition without disadvantaging New Zealand licensees who didn’t require licensing in Australia.

She says the GBCA will also be reviewing other ECNZ building product standards in 2018, including those for Insulation Products and Paints. “GBCA doesn’t often recognise product certification schemes outside Australia, so this is a very exciting development for us and for many of our licensees.”

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