One of New Zealand’s first designer “green” show homes not only has a range of environmentally friendly features, it is also beautiful and comfortable, and secured its owner a brace of awards.
The Whitianga house is a dream come true for its builder, Rod Percival, owner of Rod Percival Builders Ltd. Last year, it won the James Hardie Show Home Award and the Future Proof Building Award in the Registered Master Builders 2007 House of the Year competition.
“Environmentally friendly buildings don’t have to be basic grass huts, and this house proves it,” New Zealand Green Party leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said at the opening ceremony in September last year.
Just what Rod wanted to hear. Describing the house as healthy, future-proof and a home with a conscience, he says it is an undeniable fact that mankind’s way of life has had devastating environmental costs for our planet.
Entering a period of consequences
“Al Gore said it right — we’re entering a period of consequences,” Rod says.
“But of late there’s been an awareness to begin minimising our environmental impact on natural systems and other living organisms. Green building principles, spearheaded by industry leaders, are part of this movement and are slowly changing the way New Zealanders construct homes.
“Construction causes around 35% to 40% of carbon emissions. International and local demand for green homes is growing fast. And I’m right there in front, I’m dedicated to green building, and intend on being green-smart when and where I possibly can,” he says.
Although Rod has always been meticulously careful with resources — both his own and those of his customers — green building became a real passion for him after returning from the Santa Fe Design Week and the Parade of Homes in Albuquerque in the United States in October 2006.
He also used the time in the States to research green building techniques, among others, and discussing green building with other environmentally aware builders and architects.
“Building isn’t just about putting up a house, it’s about creating homes that are safe, that keep the environment protected and our families healthy. Their building methods and ideas were a huge inspiration to me.
“They’re streets ahead of New Zealand in green design and technology, but I must say more and more suppliers here are coming on board, and so are our customers,” he says.
Back in the Land of the Long White Cloud, Rod and the Rod Percival Builders Ltd team committed themselves fully to go ahead with green building principles. Rod, his son Brad, and designer Lynda Vugler then put their heads together to design the green show home. They adapted their new ideas to suit the New Zealand environment and resource capability.
They also did their homework, finding responsible suppliers and eco-friendly products.
“I spent more time than ever questioning what chemicals are in products, do they save energy, minimise water usage, reduce waste and so forth. Very often you just have to read the labels — it’s a long journey, but very satisfying,” he recalls.
The result? “The unique, elegant, high quality, up-to-the-minute show home in Whitianga — a green-smart work of art,” Rod says with pride.
He explains some of the house’s 54 green credentials.
The house has above-the-code natural wool insulation, double glazing to windows and doors, and solar energy for hot water and under floor heating. Its tapware products reduce water use, as do the smart flush toilets.
The house is also fitted with water and energy efficient whiteware and electronic equipment, as well as energy-saving light bulbs.
All excavated soil remained on site for garden landscaping. The garden has a grey-water irrigation system to reduce impact on the sewerage system and a water-tank for the organic garden and as a water restrictions back-up.
The team used New Zealand plantation-grown cedar for the cladding and lawson cypress for the posts and beams for the pergolas and rafters to the lounge. These timbers require no treatment.
In addition, they used recycled timber pegs and untreated boxing, as well as recycled rimu trim throughout and for the vanities.
“It irks me that we are cutting down rainforests when there is sustainable plantation timber available, when there are recycled products available,” he says.
The pod floor system reduced the need for high embodied energy hard fill, and provided better insulation.
Inside, the house has American clay plaster on the walls, and the builders used non-solvent-based glues, low VOC paints and non-toxic oils. The interior design relied on eco-friendly materials where possible, including bamboo and sisal wallpapers.
Rod says the team also used local businesses and material where possible, rather than outsourcing products and services. And, finally, all gib waste was composted on Rod’s farm. “Our goal is to reduce our waste going from Whitianga to Auckland by 80%!”
Rod says response to the award-winning show home has been “overwhelming to say the least. We’ve been designing new homes continually since we opened it. Attention to detail is the key.
“Also, I believe in the importance and power of setting written goals, allowing yourself to dream — it grew my business, and it helped me achieve this show home,” he says.
Rod finds it interesting that living by the principles his parents instilled in him suddenly gave his building skills a major competitive edge.
“I was raised to be careful, to be environmentally conscious. We recycled everything. I remember sorting out nails and timber in my father’s shed, and collecting those fizz bottles and getting 3d back was great.
“Waste not, want not were the catchwords — not very fashionable concepts during the past 30 years or so, but always true, and people are beginning to realise it again,” he says.
His first real project was a beach bach he built for his young family at Turakina Beach when he was just finishing his apprenticeship with his builder father in Marton 36 years ago.
“All the windows were second hand and free. They all had to be re-glazed, and the front door was 100 years old. The kitchen, bath, hot water cylinder, taps, and even the water tanks, tank stands, fences and cladding on the shed were recycled.
“With a total spend of $1000 we had a bach where my wife Sue and I spent years having fun with our growing family.”
With the show home having proven its mettle, he now plans to focus on building for commercial and private residence clients who care about the footprint they are leaving on the planet.
“It’s not that difficult. It’s essentially about being aware of the environment and materials around us, sensitive to the products and services we use, with the aim to reduce fossil fuels and non-renewable resources,” he says.
He also plans to encourage the use of sustainable materials in all Rod Percival Builders Ltd projects through consultation with and green-smart guidance to the client, architect, his 22 staff members, subcontractors and suppliers.
This is because “a green mind-set is needed from the start of development decisions and needs to involve the whole team.”
He is well placed to make a difference — with customers from around the world, Rod Percival Builders Ltd has an international reputation for quality, servicing and innovation.
The company has been placed consistently in the Registered Master Builders House of the Year competition since 1993, and over the years has walked away with two PlaceMakers Supreme Awards.
Fundamental head shift critical
Rod is a member of the New Zealand Green Building Council, and has held several offices in the RMBF, including president of the Auckland Association.
“It’s critical that we all do a fundamental head shift for our grandchildren to enjoy life like we have — we’ve got to put greed aside and go for it,” he says.