Building a greener future

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This year sees the beginning of a new phase in the Registered Master Builders 2008 House of the Year, in association with PlaceMakers.

 

Three new award categories aimed at recognising excellence in sustainable building will feature in New Zealand’s largest building awards programme, with the addition of the Sustainable Homes Awards.

 

The introduction of these award categories, sponsored by the Department of Building and Housing and new national sponsor Meridian, reflect New Zealanders’ growing desire for more sustainable building solutions.

 

However, while sustainable building in New Zealand is gaining popularity, most home owners are unaware of just what constitutes a sustainable home.

 

Sustainable Homes category judge Bill Irvine maintains that sustainable homes are not only designed and built more efficiently, but also encourage their owners to live a more sustainable lifestyle which creates less waste, resulting in lower running costs.

 

“Think of some of the primary aspects of sustainability — prudent water usage, good air, energy conservation and waste minimisation — and you have good economics,” Mr Irvine says.

 

The judging criteria for the three price-based sustainable homes categories were developed by the RMBF in collaboration with BRANZ. In addition to the generic judging guidelines for the new homes categories, water, air quality, waste management and energy were all flagged as key points for consideration.

 

Registered master builders responded well to the introduction of the sustainable homes awards, with an impressive 80 entries across the three categories, resulting in 15 gold award winners.

 

A home built on a lifestyle block just outside Geraldine by Henderson Building (2006) Ltd was one of these gold award-winning homes.

 

The property, which was buried on one side and had a grass roof minimising its impact on the landscape, was awarded the winner of the Department of Building and Housing Sustainable Homes under $500,000 category in the South Canterbury region.

 

Mr Irvine, who judged the property, acknowledged that the owner’s brief went further than most urban dwellers could achieve, but was an excellent example of what could be done with a bit of thought.

 

“This home was designed by owner Rhys Taylor who is, by trade, an environmental scientist, so it was designed with sustainability principles as the primary goal.

 

“However, the design was balanced with good quality workmanship by Ken Bradshaw and his team, which was an important component of the project.“

 

In terms of water efficiency the property was served by town water and storm water which is collected from a roof catchment and directed to on-site tank storage for watering the orchard.

 

The effluent disposal field was serviced by a three-stage bio-degradable septic tank system and a wetland on-site disposal.

 

The disposal field was “bunded” to prevent it from becoming saturated during inclement weather.

 

External photovoltaic panels provide hot water delivery to the top third of the hot water cylinder so minimal electricity is used when boosting is required.

 

The home was made energy-efficient primarily through simple design, including polystyrene on the outer faces of the internal walls, and the windows and doors were double glazed.

 

 Insulated masonry walls provided thermal mass, ensuring an almost static internal temperature.

 

With regards to the sustainability of building materials, Henderson Building made evident its use of untreated timbers where applicable, and low volatile organic compounds (VOC) paints were used throughout.

 

They also explained that the air quality in the home would be of a high standard as a result of the rural location of the property, and the high level windows in the roof which incorporated a mechanism ensuring air exchange could be controlled.

 

Mr Irvine maintains that with properties like this being built, the Sustainable Homes Awards are likely to get bigger and better as the years go on.

 

“There is a real push for sustainable solutions to the built environment now, and homes such as the Henderson Building (2006) Ltd property are a great model of cost-effective, green housing in New Zealand.”