The Dominion Post

Minister hints at lift in home build quality

- Olivia Wannan

Climate Change Minister James Shaw wants to see a dramatic lift in the quality of new builds, so they require minimal energy to stay warm and dry in winter and cool in summer.

Based on Ka¯ inga Ora’s experience building higher quality social housing, the constructi­on costs can be ‘‘very little extra’’ while there are numerous benefits from smaller energy bills to improved health and productivi­ty, Shaw said.

The average household produces 1.2 tonnes of carbon emissions every year through its electricit­y consumptio­n – more if it uses gas. Homes with smaller energy bills will lower the country’s greenhouse gas footprint. The minister’s comments came during a green building event.

In 2019, Ka¯ inga Ora pledged to build houses above the minimums set by the Building Code, choosing the NZ Green Building Council’s rating tool and aiming for Homestar 6 (or ‘‘good’’ on the 10-point scale).

Shaw said the extra costs to meet this standard for new social housing had been less than first expected. ‘‘We [the Government] are thinking about lifting that standard… perhaps something even as close as the Living Building standard or the Passive House standard,’’ he told the event.

Asked if these higher quality standards might extend beyond

Ka¯ inga Ora projects, Shaw said: ‘‘There’s no reason to suspect you couldn’t do the same with all housing.’’ Homebuilde­rs wanting an energy-efficient and lowercarbo­n house today can choose to meet a number of voluntary standards, such as Homestar, Passive House and Zero Energy House. (For larger facilities, there’s Green Star and Living Buildings.)

Each puts different requiremen­ts on designers and builders and there’s some debate about which produces the highestqua­lity constructi­on.

It is more expensive to build to any of these standards. However, Shaw said costs would come down if these high standards became the new minimum. ‘‘High-quality buildings are all done on a voluntary basis, which means the materials and the designers are quite concentrat­ed, and therefore the costs are high. But if you have a universal standard, then what happens is you get scale – and so price comes down.’’

Shaw said a plan to lift the constructi­on standards for social housing and wider Government facilities further was in its early days. People living in cold, damp houses fall ill more often, requiring time off from work and school.

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