High performance homes – best practice

shutterstock_67313941High performance homes are becoming more common in New Zealand for a number of reasons. Immigrants from colder climates such as North America or Europe are experiencing our poor housing stock, and many have quoted they’ve never been as cold in their life before living in a traditional New Zealand home. These immigrants are bringing ideas and building systems from overseas to build higher performance homes for their families. Kiwi’s are getting sick and tired of asthma, crying windows, mold, and damp energy hungry homes – and are pushing architects and designers to embrace new improved design and construction methods. It is readily accepted that the Building Code is a minimum, not a target, and for a warm comfortable home you need to make a number of improvements.

View the H1 compliance tables here.

shutterstock_64765411One of the more popular recent construction methods are homes certified under the “Passive House” standard, initially started in Germany but now a building performance standard used in tens of thousands of homes world-wide. A Passive House (not to be confused with a home designed for passive solar gain) is carefully designed to ensure the home only uses around 20% of the energy a typical home would consume. It is then much easier to bridge the remaining 20% gap with local renewable power, and the next logical step is a “Zero Energy” home. Zero energy homes consume as much power as they produce, and are often grid-tied and feed and draw power from the general electricity network. The heart of a Passive House is design, high levels of insulation, air-tightness, and balanced ventilation. Before adding on renewable energy generation, the first priority is to reduce the base load of demand. That way – you need a much smaller and cheaper system.

An average home will lose or gain up to 35 per cent of heat through ceilings, up to 25 per cent through the walls and 14 per cent through the floors. Increasing the R-Value of insulation at the initial stages of your build is more economical, increases the comfort levels and will future proof your home.