Is your home a star?

The Homes­tar cer­ti­fi­ca­tion rates homes ac­cord­ing to their en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact. The higher the rat­ing, the bet­ter they are – for peo­ple and planet.

Element - - Healthy Homes - By Adam Gif­ford

Lurk­ing in the fine print of the Draft Auck­land Uni­tary Plan is a pro­posal for new dwellings to be built to a Homes­tar 6 stan­dard, if five or more con­sents are sought at once.

Homes built to cur­rent build­ing code min­i­mum would get a Homes­tar rat­ing of around four, so it’s a jump. What will it achieve?

“You’d no­tice. There’s a hell of a dif­fer­ence be­tween 4 and 6,” says Homes­tar di­rec­tor Leigh Feather­stone.

The Homes­tar rat­ing sys­tem was de­vel­oped in 2009 by the New Zealand Green Build­ing Coun­cil and build­ing in­dus­try re­search body BRANZ.

It’s New Zealand’s only in­de­pen­dent, ver­i­fied res­i­den­tial sus­tain­abil­ity rat­ing tool, es­tab­lish­ing a com­mon stan­dard and lan­guage to de­scribe the en­vi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance of New Zealand homes.

Al­most half the cred­its in Homes­tar re­late to en­ergy, health and com­fort, which is mostly about the ther­mal per­for­mance of the house.

To reach a rat­ing of Homes­tar 6 out of 10 the house must in­clude to­tal in­su­la­tion, dou­ble-glazed win­dows or heavy-duty ther­mal cur­tains, en­ergy ef­fi­cient light­ing and ap­pli­ances, and wa­ter ef­fi­cient sys­tems such as low-flow show­er­heads and dual flush toi­lets.

“That means it should be a warm, well ven­ti­lated house that doesn’t have mould, doesn’t have con­den­sa­tion, and will keep you health­ier,” Feather­stone says.

An in­de­pen­dent study has es­ti­mated reach­ing Homes­tar 6 adds just over two per cent to the build for a stan­dard three-bed­room home, but that can be knocked back by mak­ing it smaller – no bad thing when you re­alise the aver­age New Zealand new home size is now the sec­ond largest in the world be­hind Aus­tralia.

The pay­back time is 5.5 years from lower en­ergy and

“You’d no­tice. There’s a hell of a dif­fer­ence be­tween 4 and 6”

Leigh Feather­stone, Homes­tar di­rec­tor

wa­ter costs and lower main­te­nance.

“Six is eas­ily achiev­able. There are builders pro­duc­ing 7s and 8s, but then you have to get a bit ex­otic about the wa­ter, such as retic­u­lat­ing grey­wa­ter for flush­ing the toi­let,” Feather­stone says.

It’s not just for new builds. The ma­jor­ity of vis­i­tors to the Homes­tar web­site are peo­ple look­ing for ren­o­va­tion ad­vice.

It re­cently launched a new sub­scrip­tion ser­vice – MyHomes­tar – to help peo­ple bet­ter un­der­stand how their new or ex­ist­ing home is likely to per­form.

An on­line self-as­sess­ment tool al­lows them to as­sess their en­ergy, health and com­fort, wa­ter, and waste sit­u­a­tion, rates the house from 0 to 10, and gives rec­om­men­da­tions on home im­prove­ment and main­te­nance.

The sub­scrip­tion can give them ac­cess to spe­cial dis­counts from Homes­tar prod­uct part­ners such as Re­sene, Pink Batts, Cava­lier Brem­worth, GIB, Parex, Bosch, Show­er­dome, Earthwool and Placemak­ers.

“Homes­tar doesn’t rec­om­mend prod­ucts. We give ad­vice, and put prod­ucts in a for­mat that lets peo­ple make their own de­ci­sions,” Feather­stone says.

It’s is pitched as a source of in­de­pen­dent ad­vice for those plan­ning a ren­o­va­tion or pur­chas­ing a new house.

While other coun­tries have in­tro­duced sim­i­lar sus­tain­abil­ity mea­sure­ment sys­tems, such as the UK Code for Sus­tain­able Homes, Aus­tralia’s NABERS-Homes and Ger­many’s Pas­sivHaus, Homes­tar is unique as it is ap­pli­ca­ble to both ex­ist­ing and new home builds in­clud­ing stand-alone, ter­race and apart­ments.

As well as the con­sumer web­site (homes­tar.org.nz), there is now a national net­work of Homes­tar pro­fes­sion­als to give ad­vice, in­clud­ing Homes­tar As­ses­sors that can cer­tify homes.

Feather­stone says Homes­tar is start­ing to be adopted by group builders such as Stonewood and Mike Greer Homes in Christchurch.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion is also work­ing with Otago Univer­sity about a pro­posed war­rant of fit­ness for rental properties.

He says with more than a mil­lion un­der­per­form­ing houses in New Zealand, there is huge scope for im­prove­ment.

The for­mat of the Homes­tar tool al­lows home­own­ers to iden­tify and pri­ori­tise what they need to do.

“No one fixes ev­ery­thing at once.”

Photo: sup­plied. Photo: Michael Craig.

Main pic­ture: the aver­age drafty Kiwi villa scores a two on the Homes­tar scale. Inset: this home in Nel­son scored a six on the scale.

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