Unusual engineering award announced for ecolabel

Tuesday, 25 August, 2009

In a rare decision, a significant New Zealand engineering award has been made to a non-engineering project. In its annual awards, the Association of Consulting Engineers (ACENZ) singled out Environmental Choice New Zealand to receive a Silver Award of Excellence, emphasising the rising profile for the Environment Ministry’s ecolabel and its third-party proven environmental assessment of licence applications.

All other gold and silver awards announced at the Queenstown event went to more typical structural and project design entries.

What pushes an environmental labelling scheme into the country’s top 12 major engineering awards? According to the ACENZ citation, it includes the ‘noteworthy contribution to environmental improvement’ made by the companies that have achieved licensee status. Environmental Choice general manager Robin Taylor said the award is therefore a tribute to the environmental commitment of licensee companies with products as diverse as office cabinets, playground surfacing, photocopiers, paints, floor coverings and personal toiletries.

Environmental Choice New Zealand now marks over 1300 products and services as proven environmentally preferable. The label is operated under contract to the government by the independent New Zealand Ecolabelling Trust.

In making the award, the judges stated: “This rating reflects the robustness, credibility and high technical standards of the program developed by Tonkin & Taylor for the Trust.” The citation adds that the program has become ‘a critical part’ of ratings for materials in the NZ Green Building Council’s GreenStar rating tool.

Tonkin & Taylor have more traditionally been associated with physical projects such as Auckland’s Northern (toll) Gateway, the Onehunga waste management station, the Kai Iwi rail tunnel bypass and recently, a logistically challenging jetty and slipway project on isolated Pitcairn Island. All were successful awards finalists. The consultancy’s diligent approach to developing and revising the Environmental Choice standards and applying them to assessments has achieved world best practice accolades for the Trust’s ecolabelling program (UK DEFRA report 2008).

Environmental Choice general manager Robin Taylor says the involvement of Tonkin & Taylor since the mid 1990s has been “consistently of the highest quality” and has contributed substantially to the international respect now enjoyed by the ecolabel.

The silver award recognises ‘innovative technique and design and excellent service to the client’.

Visit Environmental Choice NZ website for further information.

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