Advice from smart home owners
Tips for building small, efficient, warm, smart homes
This is Julie Villard and her partner Edward’s new smart house. Julie is the Eco Design Advisor for the Christchurch City Council, and trained and worked as an architect in Europe, where warm, efficient, ‘smart’ homes have been the norm for 20+ years.
New Zealand’s building standards are very low in comparison. Julie wanted to set a good example of what can be achieved.
“I decided to use this house as a tool to show people you can actually achieve a good, efficient home.”
1 Do your homework first
Julie has vast experience designing energy-efficient, well-insulated homes. In contrast, most NZ homes only meet the minimum legal standard for buildings, and nothing more.
“What’s really important if homeowners want to stay on budget, I really recommend they do their homework first. It is really important to define your needs versus your wants, and work from there.” WHERE TO START ECO DESIGN ADVISORS A free service at many NZ councils. If your council doesn’t have one, there are guides on their website. www.ecodesignadvisor.org.nz SUPERHOMES This non-profit, industry-led group leads tours of smart homes around NZ and has a directory of ‘smart’ product suppliers. www.superhome.co.nz SMARTER HOMES A series of guides focusing on smart home fundamentals, funded by Government. www.smarterhomes.org.nz
2 Stick to the plan
Sticking to the plan will save you a lot of money says Julie.
“I said to Eddy, ‘ When we apply for our building consent, this is it! We are not changing anything: the layout or a window size. We stick to what we’ve got.’
“If you do make changes, it’s going to cost you, and more than what you think: you have to pay the architect, the council, the builder.”
Julie says even she was tempted during her build.
“The window manufacturer came to me and said, ‘we can triple glaze (the windows) now’. I was like, ‘Oh! But we’ll stay with double glazing’.
“It’s really important to be responsible.”
3 Build a smaller house
In Julie’s Eco Design Advisor role, one of the most important design features she advocates for, is smaller, higherquality homes. Her own home is 117m².
“It’s about conscious choices. I prefer to have a two bedroom house with a mezzanine – people can sleep there if we have guests – instead of paying for another bedroom that we’re never going to use.” Above: Julie and Edward’s smart home is two-bedrooms and 117m². Look out for a full profile of the smart features of their home in an upcoming issue.
4 Keep it simple
Dave Launder’s advice from 40+ years as an architect: keep the design as simple as possible.
“I’ve always had the philosophy that I should never design anything I can’t build myself. I like simple design, and that handmade feel that comes with it, paring things right back to what they simply need to be. This house has very much been a hands-on build.”
He and Isobel built their previous home in Otaki with help from a labourer. It won the Supreme Award at the 2007 New Zealand Institute of Architecture Awards.
Dave took inspiration for the design of their Kaipara house from his work on a large farm shed. During that project, Dave says he learned a lot about the versatility and attractiveness of cool-store panels. They come in set widths, with steel framing and an already-finished, shiny surface.
“Because we built using cool-store panels, interlocking on a steel frame, it was very quick to get the roof up.”
There are drawbacks. Only one company has them certified as a structural element and there are restrictions.
“They are not feasible to use in a general sense without specific engineering design (SED), and this puts them into generally the too-hard basket.
“They are classified only as a ‘cladding’ product generally.”
“I’ve always had this philosophy that I should never design anything I can’t build myself.”
WHO: Dave Launder & Isobel Gabites WHERE: Kaipara Harbour WHAT: three-wing, 160m² home, built from cool store panels on steel frames, with cedar cladding WEB: www.dn2.co.nz