As with any country, New Zealand has a unique set of building conditions, geographical and climate based influences and legal requirements that need to be taken into account when building a new house.
Consequently, unless you’ve built before, navigating your way through the build process can be somewhat daunting at times. To give you a helping hand, here are our top six sustainable tips you might like to consider when building in New Zealand.
Quality insulation has been proven to help keep your home warmer in winter and cooler in the summer; resulting in a home that will cost less to cool and heat throughout the year, as well as reducing noise levels and condensation. Well insulated homes are also less likely to provide a welcoming environment for mould and mildew, reducing the potential for allergens in the home.
When considering your home’s insulation needs, it is important to think about the walls, windows, ceiling and under the floor. The New Zealand Building Code regulations require newly built homes and renovations or additions to existing homes to be insulated to specific minimum standards. Your builder should be able to advise on exactly how much insulation is needed and where.
The local climate, views, existing vegetation, street access, section size and expected noise levels are all factors that will play a role in the direction your home will face. However, even though they are important in their own right, the need to balance these factors against the enormous benefit of harnessing the sun's energy for heating and keeping the home dry should take precedent when considering a house’s orientation in relation to its section or site.
In New Zealand, this means to make the most of the sun. The most used living areas should be northward facing or as close to it as possible. This includes having the largest glazing in the house (windows and glass sliders, or french doors) opening in a northerly direction. As well as plenty of glazing to the east to catch the early morning sun, a little less to the west to avoid overheating in the late afternoon and, of course, limited or smaller sized glazing to the south.
Ongoing Energy Costs
Every appliance, automated system or electrical component added to your home has an effect on the ongoing energy costs and environmental impacts in the home. In New Zealand, the average household spends over $2100 on their electricity bills each year so it makes sense to put some thought into ways to reduce this expense when building a new house.
The good news is there are lots of ways to incorporate energy efficiency into your home, today’s marketplace is full of energy rated electrical fixtures, fittings and appliances. Lighting is one of the simplest ways to improve energy efficiency and often the switch will even help solve insulation issues around lighting in ceiling.
In New Zealand, most homes are heated by electricity, gas or wood. All of these options have their own benefits and drawbacks, with many external factors like location, local regulations and even personal preference influencing a homeowner’s heating decisions.
Some forms of heating are considered more energy efficient than others, but all have some impacts on the environment so this is worth taking into account; along with running costs, fuel availability and the size of heater needed to comfortably heat the entire home.
In NZ, we are very fortunate to have access to fresh water and it is vital that we maintain and respect this resource now and into the future if we wish that to continue. Already many New Zealand rivers and water sources are contaminated, drying up or under pressure from excessive overuse. The financial costs associated with saving water are considered to be minimal at this stage with only some areas of NZ required to pay for water, but the environmental savings can be quite significant over the longer term.
Considering water saving or recycling techniques not only makes sense, but it is also becoming a standard option for many homeowners. Installing a rainwater tank is the simplest most inexpensive option at present. Collecting rainwater is great for use on the garden or even to incorporate into regular household use.
To date, most houses in New Zealand are constructed from timber framing surrounded by weatherboard or brick cladding. However, the use of steel framing and concrete has seen a surge in popularity, along with several alternative options including plasters, plastics, straw bales and earth mixes.
Whatever you decide, be sure to weigh up the local climate conditions, environmental impact, location, availability and budget implications, as once you've made this decision, remember it is irreversible. It is also worth noting that the type of construction materials used will also contribute to the complete insulation of the home.
For any more tips about sustainable building, feel free to contact Johnno at JMI.