Whether you are building or renovating, constructing buildings that are sustainable can both meet the needs of the present generation, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable building means designing, constructing and operating buildings with low environmental impacts.
The Benefits of Sustainable Buildings
A well-designed sustainable home is:
- Warmer and drier – with good levels of quality insulation and by utilising natural sunlight and ventilation, you can maintain a warm and dry home all year round.
- Safer and healthier – a sustainable home can help eliminate damp conditions where mildew and toxic mould thrive. Cold and damp conditions contribute to family health problems such as colds, flu’s and respiratory diseases such as asthma.
- Cheaper to operate – careful selection of heating options, incorporating good passive solar design, and using energy and water-efficient appliances can make homes cheaper to operate. Some options cost you nothing, while others may require initial set-up costs but save you money in the long-run. Current research also suggests that sustainable houses hold their re-sale value compared with other houses.
- Enjoyable to live in – a dry, warm, and lower running cost house makes a home more enjoyable to live in. Often good design can also reduce noise and glare.
- Has less impact on the environment – a house that is designed, constructed and operated (through sustainable household practices) can minimize the total environmental impacts by helping to conserve resources and producing less waste.
If you are planning on building or renovating, there are many choices available to you to achieve a sustainable home. These everyday choices in materials and design really do make a difference to the long term sustainability of our houses. With planning and good management, no matter where you live, you can design, build, renovate, maintain and run a sustainable home.
Consider sustainability options during the entire design and construction process. The New Zealand Building Code requires that designers, builders, developers, local authorities and building owners consider:
- the use of energy and use of renewable sources of energy
- the use of materials and material conservation
- the use of water and water conservation
- the reduction of waste during construction
For more information see www.smarterhomes.org.nz and consider:
- Design – A design that meets your needs and takes advantage of location to save power, water and money
- Energy – How to save energy and on your power bills
- Water – Efficient use of water
- Siting and landscaping – House position on the site
- Materials – Choice of Building materials, and reduction of waste during construction
- Construction – pros and cons of different types of house construction
Whether you are renovating or maintaining an existing home, you can enjoy the same benefits that come with living in a new sustainable home. Tenants can also live more sustainably in their flat or apartment, simply by choosing better household practices. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ) have published extensive information about developing sustainable buildings:
New Zealand companies and businesses can also build and operate sustainably. For information on how to reduce costs and increase competitiveness through energy efficiency and renewable energy practices check out www.eecabusiness.govt.nz.
Conventional or non-conventional designs – how to meet compliance
All buildings build in New Zealand – whether conventional or more innovative designs – must meet the minimum health and safety performance requirements of the New Zealand Building Code. There is two ways performance to the Building Code can be met:
- Following the Acceptable Solutions or use verification methods. Acceptable solutions are like a recipe. There is one recipe book for each building code clause. If you design and build according to these solutions, you can’t go wrong. Verification methods, on the other hand, are ways to test or calculate the performance of your design. Acceptable Solutions and Verification Methods are published together for each of the building code clauses under Building Code Compliance. These are free and can be downloaded from the MBIE website.
- Using an Alternative Solution which the designer creates to allow for something different and/or innovative solutions. If you choose this method then you must demonstrate that your design will meet the performance requirements relevant to the Building Code clauses. Check out the MBIE website (alternative solutions) on how to provide the necessary evidence.
At the end of the day regardless of what you design, conventional or more innovative, you must be able to demonstrate compliance with the Building Code. Remember this is just about meeting the minimum requirements to ensure the health and safety of people using the building. Obviously, if you want to, you can choose to design and build something with a far superior performance than the building code’s minimum standards.
- Level – BRANZ guidance onto designing and building more sustainable homes.
- BRANZ – guides for Eco Building and sustainable construction, including
- Homestar – Improve your home’s performance. The website includes a free on-line test that gives you a Homestar rating (between 1 and 10).
- Smarter Homes – Sustainable home design, building and lifestyle options for homeowners and renters, potential house buyers and building industry professionals.
- New Zealand Green Building Council – Best practice standards, Green Star rating tool, information, and resources.
- Eco Design Advisors – A BRANZ initiative offered by select Councils to provide free advice.
- Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority – Information and tools, information about renewable energy: bioenergy, hydro energy, marine energy, solar energy and wind energy.
- Energywise – information for householders on home energy efficiency, government funding for home insulation and heating systems, energy labeling schemes, and ways to improve energy choices.
- Climate Change Information – New Zealand’s emissions, emissions trading, projected impacts, international negotiations, and obligations.
- Rightlight – smarter choices about lighting for home or workplace to reduce power bills and being energy aware in lighting design (while building or renovating).
- Resource Efficiency in Building and Related Industries (REBRI) – information about resource efficiency and using materials, energy, time and money more effectively; and provides information for industry professionals about assessing, planning and managing waste.
- Drivers for Resource Efficiency – improving resource efficiency and thermal performance in commercial buildings.
- Energystar – New Zealand’s mark of energy efficiency for products, typically the top 25% most energy efficient products by category.
- Energywise – Information, and advice in making energy efficient choices.
- Smarter Homes – Information on energy savings e.g., appliances, lighting, solar heating, water use and collection, grey water use etc.
- Solar Water Heating – Information and case studies.
- Sustainability – 25 easy steps towards sustainability.
- Being home smart
- Urban Greywater Design and Installation Handbook (1 of 3 Australian guides giving essential information when considering installing a grey water system). Note: this file is slow to load due to the size.
- Oasis Design – Ecological system design, water storage, rainwater harvesting, grey water. Please note that any plumbing or drainage system must be approved by your local Council and installed by the appropriate qualified tradesperson.
Products / Appliances
- Eco-Specifier – an Australasian online database of materials, products, and technologies.
- Miproducts – a New Zealand online database of building products for industry professionals.
- Micro Generation – Generating electricity on your own property.
- REBRI – Resource Efficiency in Building and Related Industries.
- Rightlight – efficient light bulbs, lighting design (building or renovating).
- Timber – Good Wood Guides
- WANZ – about double glazing and thermal performance
- WEERS – Window Energy Efficiency Rating System
- ‘Little Greenie’ – A new house that uses less than $70 in heating per year.
- Waitakere NOW Home Project
- Rotorua NOW Home Project
- Beacon & Christchurch’s New Urban Village
- Home Smart Renovation Project
- Papakowhai Renovation Project
- Build Back Smarter Project (in Christchurch)
- Blake St, Ponsonby
- Christchurch East Inner City
- Waimanu Bay
- West Harbour
Solar Water Heating
- Case studies on solar heating projects
BRANZ Study Reports and surveys
- Measuring Sustainability Progress – Benchmarking NZ new residential housing stock
- Valuing sustainability and resilience features in housing
- New house construction quality survey 2014
- New house owners’ satisfaction survey 2014