Sustainable, healthy homes and the future of New Zealand’s built environment is an important issue for members of Architectural Designers New Zealand. We believe a warm, dry, healthy home shouldn’t be the gold standard, it should be the bare minimum for all New Zealanders.
When approaching any new build, both designer and homeowner need to place importance on creating a home that's built to last a lifetime, that exceeds the building code, and one that's built with sustainable building practices in mind. On the rise globally, building sustainably is no longer a pipe dream, it's a movement gaining traction with some convincing statistics and ambassadors leading the charge.
At a simplistic level, building sustainably is about designing and building a home that's good for people and also good for our environment.
Healthy homes are warm and well insulated, they are dry and well ventilated, and they are comfortable for the people who live there. Most importantly, they reduce the risk of those living there developing respiratory issues and other preventable health issues.
Bob Burnett, of Bob Burnett Architecture, is a member of Architectural Designers New Zealand and a pioneer in energy-efficient design. He is also the founder of the Superhome Movement – an industry-led movement aimed at sharing design and build innovations to improve New Zealand homes.
According to Burnett, New Zealand building standards are in urgent need of improvement.
“On a global scale, our building code is 25 years behind other developed countries in the OECD and the science shows it’s negatively affecting our health and our economy. Even worse, more than 90% of homes in New Zealand are built to the lowest standard allowed by law. Most new homes are difficult to keep warm and expensive to heat, they are also not effectively ventilated contributing to a high incidence of preventable health problems.”
The science exploring housing-related illness is sobering. New Zealand has the highest rate of childhood asthma in the developed world. As many as 40% of our 8-year olds have asthma, and sadly our housing is largely to blame.
To fix the problem, it’s important that those who are looking to build or renovate are correctly informed about all their options.
Communication is key and clients need to be aware of the vital importance of exceeding out-dated building code legal minimums. I hope that by creating awareness as to the subpar code minimums, the public will insist on better, healthier homes,” says Bob.
The Superhome Movement is just one organisation within New Zealand educating designers and homeowners on sustainable building practices. The New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC), is the country’s leading not-for-profit for the sustainable built environment and oversees the Homestar and Green Star programmes.
Andrew Eagles is the Chief Executive of the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) and a contributor and collaborator for Architectural Designers New Zealand events and education opportunities.
The Homestar initiative was launched in 2010 and is an independent rating tool that certifies the health, efficiency and sustainability of New Zealand homes. A high-rating Homestar home has a heavily insulated thermal envelope for optimal energy efficiency. Excellent ventilation and moisture control are also standard.
Andrew Eagles shared with Architectural Designers New Zealand why the NZGBC works so tirelessly to improve standards and educate designers and homeowners in New Zealand.
“A green building is one that is designed and built to reduce or remove any harmful impact on the environment and the people using it.
Green buildings make more efficient use of resources such as energy and water, and provide healthier environments for people to live and work in. Green building practices can also reduce construction and operation costs."
“The economist Shamubeel Eaqub published a report comparing the costs and benefits of building 100,000 homes to Homestar instead of the New Zealand Building Code. The report found there is an upfront cost to this, but that the private benefits outweigh the costs, and there are substantial social benefits. These benefits include savings in electricity and water bills for those living in Homestar homes, and the social benefits that come through reduced climate change pollution, waste and water runoff,” says Eagles.
The NZGBC also argue that as well as being good for the environment and our health, green buildings are good for the bottom line.
“Green commercial buildings deliver better returns and are more popular with tenants. There is also evidence that contends green buildings attract greater occupancy, better returns and have lower operating costs,” says Eagles.
Incorporating sustainable design practices can work within every budget. We've outlined some ideas to get you started on your journey.
There are many resources for those looking for more in-depth information on building sustainably. ADNZ provides multiple opportunities for members to attend educational events, workshops and seminars to increase their knowledge and understanding of building sustainably.
For those looking for more resources, Architectural Designers New Zealand recommends the following links:
Read Architectural Designers New Zealand's Climate Change and Biodiversity Action Plan here.