“Improving insulation has endless benefits. It’s a simple, popular way to cut carbon pollution by reducing the amount of energy needed to heat a home. And the cheapest, cleanest form of energy is the energy you don’t use. It also keeps homes warmer, and makes a home a healthier place for families to thrive in. – Andrew Eagles, CEO, NZGBC (New Zealand Green Building Council)

 

 

There appears to be a postponement to making changes to our H1 Energy Efficiency of our New Zealand Building Code (NZBC). This is after an out cry by some construction organisations about the industry’s ability to adjust to the change, notified in November last year which was to come into enforcement in November this year. This is a start contrast to the overwhelming 98% support from Architects, Designers and Building Scientists for the increase to the minimum requirements outlined in this section of our NZBC. This is now delayed to only be compulsory to any new consents lodged after June 2023.

The justification for this appears to be twofold, firstly the insulation manufacturers feel they have not had enough time to come up with cost effective solutions, despite many of them relying on generic values for their products for years and very few investing in innovation to improving and testing the actual performance of their products. This is ironic given that our Building Code boasts of being performance based and encouraging innovation.

Secondly there is the current economic uncertainty with rising construction costs and challenging lending criteria. Building organisations have highlighted this as the main reason for the delay, saying this would have a negative impact on building contracts, the viability for some builder’s businesses and industry partners during this time

While I accept that all of these do have an impact on our industry and our clients who are homeowners, I feel a little perspective needs to be given here.

This challenge is a moment in time. Here is where we are sitting in context of the 40 years since the WHO (World Health Organisation) set international thresholds for Housing and health guidelines in the 1980s and less than 50 years after we introduced insulation as a requirement in our New Zealand Building Code. This code outlines the minimum our residential buildings need to satisfy in order to be compliant. Its a common preconception that achieving Code Compliance is a certificate of approval. It is, approval for the minimum level, which is what most homes aim for.

The same minimum that today creates homes that are below the threshold of the WHOs homes and health guidelines. To be clear, none of our minimum NZBC homes can achieve WHO healthy home standards, our current minimum performance standards are not sufficient, the largest one which is Energy Efficiency. Our minimums pale in comparison to those of England, with the same latitude, and a similar climate, which require 3 to 4 times our minimum as their threshold.


The increases in minimum requirements to H1 Energy Efficiency in Residential Buildings is again, that minimum. It seems our industry is shy of quality and healthy homes because of this current challenging moment in time. The cost of improving the insulation of a home later down the track is exponentially larger compared to the cost of increasing its quality now.

This postponement simply means that for an additional 6 months we will continue to see residential dwellings that fail WHO standards, made available for average New Zealanders to live in. And s in approximately within the next year we will see people, in a challenging economic climate, invest in their new homes which by June 2023 will be outdated in terms of our NZBC.

From an investment point of view this is very short sighted, given mortgages have long lifespans and homeowners rely on capital gains in their homes. We are only continuing to produce an outdated product in a world that is increasingly concerned about and aware of energy consumption.

With cost of living increasing, spending extra money on heating minimally insulated homes, is the reality of increasing the winter monthly energy bill. As energy costs rise, it seems silly to ignore the systems that benefit running costs in the short-term future.

Change isn’t easy, but its necessary for a better quality of home and a healthier home environment for everyday New Zealanders. I think we need to ask the question, what are we as the collaborative construction Industry creating and who and how is it ultimately serving.

If you are looking to build or renovate your home in the short future, I would encourage you to think beyond the current moment in time and invest wisely in not only your asset and greatest financial liability, but also your health.

You can have a quality home with a performance above our minimums, it doesn’t have to cost more, but it does need a different approach. Its time to think smaller, site specific, smarter, and more sustainable. This is our building future.

To book a complimentary call with Sharon to discuss your project click HERE

Architectural Design services for Waikato, Cambridge, Raglan, Hamilton, Morrinsville, Matamata and Te Awamutu.

 


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Offsite NZ Member    Licenced Building Practitioner    New Zealand Green Building Council
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