This was my takeaway from the NZGBC Housing Summit 2022. I have often had conversations with people who say that Homestar as a mainstream evaluation tool is a long way off. My suspicion has always been it is going to change quickly. This image confirms it for me. 

Change isn’t something that as humans we are always comfortable with, yet there is part of us that is wired for it. And it is that part that, more than ever, we need to honor. Our New Zealand building industry has been stuck in a holding pattern for years. Future predictions have easily been able to rely on past experiences. If anything in the last two years has taught us in the construction Industry, it is how fragile that sense of certainty really is.

This graph shows the increase in Homestar Registrations up to the end of last year. For years the industry has been told to lead the change. Architects and Designers are told to be the agents of social change and drive change. Builders say their clients are not asking for it and clients are saying, they did not know about it. Recent pushback from some in the construction sector to the changes to H1 show how resistant our industry is to that change. Even if that change benefits the health of their own clients.  

Buyers and homeowners want certainty they say. Buyers and homeowners need to be educated on what they are purchasing, then they can make informed decisions I say. A house is built for a minimum of 50 years, and yet a decision to make our homes healthier is often hardly given a thought, and an opportunity to educate, learn and do better is often ignored.

Listening to the speakers, some from around the world, talking yesterday, it was clear change has already begun and the rate will only increase. New Zealand minimum standards weren’t something uttered in this room, the conversation was way above that. Quality, future-focused, low carbon, planet considerate action and results were.

Passive House is also gaining momentum, with registrations to train increasing course by course. Currently, there are 56 Passive Houses in New Zealand. I suspect that number will rise along the same trajectory as this Homestar graph in the next year or so.

With steps to decarbonize our building sector, as spoken to by Paul Stocks, Carbon calculations and evaluations are coming to building consent in the next few years.

Emily Braham from Enrgiesprong in the UK showed how Nottingham is improving their Council housing stock to benefit the residents with feedback from those people living in those homes, before and after improvement.

Antonia Reid from MBIE spoke about our building for climate change and the pathway to 2030 (that is only 8 years away now, so time to get changing)

Linda Trainer, Jessica Stewart, Alec Tang, and Matt Wilson spoke about the Dury, Ginninderry, Kainga Ora and Peacockes developments. All had a common theme, building healthy low carbon communities and creating opportunities with the sustainable and natural features a development offers. It's happening on the scale.

Discussions also were around decarbonizing the supply chain. Do you know that 90% of our building materials come from overseas? Do you know that Allied Concrete is doing great work to use recycled content and considering other options? What are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint? How can you use New Zealand-made carbon-considered products to encourage the industry to develop?

The retrofit was discussed too. Our existing housing stock is under review and shortly there will be requirements around not just improving a little but improving to be healthy and liveable. The passive house has Enerfit and I dare say it's only a matter of time before another retrofit performance rating tool is developed.

The discussion was had about creating a register for homes in New Zealand, so the consumer can see what the energy consumption is of a home prior to buying. It's coming, it's already in Australia. We don’t like being beaten by the Wallabies, so why are we letting them beat us on this? It is too expensive? Well, who really bears the cost, and what’s the cost beyond the construction?

There is so much more to unpack, but it’s exciting, scary, and hopeful times. Change is here, it is about time we start talking and embracing it more. Be the change, chase the change, or get left behind, which one are you choosing?

Thank you to NZGBC for such a valuable summit.

To talk to Sharon Robinson. Architectural, Homestar & Certified Passive House Designer at Smart Living Spaces about your project, book a complimentary call

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Architectural Design with people and planet in mind. Hamilton, Raglan, Te Awamutu, Cambridge, and Waikato Surrounds. ⁠New Zealand.

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Offsite NZ Member    Licenced Building Practitioner    New Zealand Green Building Council Passive Designer Homestar Designer Homestar Assessor
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