Earth Building Developments in New Zealand

Wednesday 20 July 2022

Presented by Hugh Morris, Honorary Academic, University of Auckland

Abstract: About 1/3 of the world’s population live in highly sustainable forms of earth construction but it needs to be more earthquake resistant and more widely adopted in the developed world along with other low energy, low carbon natural construction such as straw bale. In this presentation Hugh Morris covered: ➢ Examples of modern earth buildings ➢ Recent developments in NZ Standards (2020 editions), including adjustments to meet requirements for insulation and seismic resistance, inclusion of straw bale buildings, and the citation process. ➢ The performance of NZ earth and straw bale buildings in the Canterbury and Kaikoura earthquakes. ➢ An overview of research behind earth and straw bale performance. ➢ Comments on the carbon and energy performance of modern earth buildings.

A recording of the talk is at:

Good Intentions - Reviewing the Government's new Emissions Reduction Plan

Panel Discussion Wednesday 15 June 2022.

New Zealand's first emissions reduction plan was released by the Ministry for the Environment on 16 May 2022. An expert panel offered its reaction and comments on the government's emission reduction targets and on the policies and strategies to reduce emissions for sectors such as transport, energy, waste, building construction and agriculture. Challenges lie ahead if we are to make an appropriate contribution to global efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5C.

A recording of the talk is at


A simple climate model of Earth’s surface temperature response to GHG emissions

Wednesday 18 April 2022.


A simple dynamical model relating Earth's expected surface temperature anomaly to CO2 emissions will be presented. The obvious constraints and limitations aside, such a dynamical model enables a variety of emissions scenarios to be explored. Results are compared against findings in the IPCC AR5 and SR15 reports and we reflect on possible pathways ahead.

About the speaker.

Mark Titchener MS (Phys), PhD (Elect. Eng.) is a retired scientist/engineer. His has been a varied career with experience ranging from electron microscopy to stratospheric chemistry, electronics, computing, and software, holding positions at SPRL, U. of Michigan (1977); Div. of Applied Sciences, Harvard (1978-81); Dept of Elect. Eng, Vict. U. Manchester(1988); Angewandte Physik, Goethe Universität, Frankfurt a. M.(1989); Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (2000); Informatik, TU, Berlin (2008); and lectureships at U. of Canterbury (1982) and Auckland (1993-2018). Early work involving the development of microprocessor based experiment control, data acquisition and telemetry systems, and the miniaturising of ground-support equipment for balloon borne experiments shaped his evolving interests. For example, Mark's discovery of a novel class of self-synchronizable codes became the focus of his PhD (1984). His subsequent reinterpretation of the fractal code construction resulted in deterministic formulations of computable complexity and information measures that have found application across a range of disciplines. In 2008 Mark became a senior researcher with the UoA Bioengineering Institute, carrying out medical time-series analysis for F&P Healthcare. Software tools developed in this work provide the basis for his current interest in an informal exploration of the climate challenges ahead.

A recording of the talk is available at


A new Ministry of Works to tackle Climate Change and Housing

On Wednesday 15 December 2021, Andre de Groot spoke to a Zoom meeting of Engineers for Social Responsibility.

Andre noted that plentiful, convenient and cheap fossil fuels have powered the industrial revolution through to today. The shift to a zero carbon economy is a challenge whose depth is difficult to fathom, there is much to be sceptical about in the idea that the energy gained from fossil fuels can be substituted to enable current lifestyles to continue. So far peripheral progress has been made at reducing carbon emissions, with substantial progress yet to occur. Similarly substantial progress is yet to occur in tackling the housing crisis.

He proposed a new Ministry of Works as a government engineering organisation to tackle the housing crisis and climate change crisis. For housing the use of mass customization of mass timber buildings is proposed; for climate change an organisation that can assess, develop and implement transition technologies is proposed.

He also discussed challenges and opportunities to advocate to civil society, the civil service and political governance.

A recording of his talk is available at