I had pleasure attending the 2012 Sustainable Housing Summit yesterday.

I must say that I went home with mixed emotions, some presentations were really good and some were rather inappropriate.

Warwick Quinn, CEO Master Builders, reported on current trends in the building industry.There were good news for Auckland and Christchurch, however flat bars on most of the other regions. I could not but wonder why you would call this “doing not so good”.
It would appear that the Master Builders are still struggling to understand the meaning of sustainability or the issues around growth. Where to please do you want to grow in a finite world? Why is the answer to any issues always growth?

Growth is the answer. Really?

Helena Norberg-Hodge expressed the issue around growth nicely in her movie “The economics of Happiness“.
And several years ago, the well known couple Brenda and Robert Vale said it this way “If I am having more, you have to have less“.

Alistair Helm, CEO of NZ real estate portal, NZ presented a survey in which they asked what homebuyers would rate most. Funny enough, orientation to the sun was the most important subject. High level or insulation came second. So there is hope. It is apparently not the granite benchtop any more. Good on you New Zealand.
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Bill Dunster delivered a nice presentation about ZEDFactory, Zero Energy Development. He however did some statement that may mislead some people. He said that the “question is whether passive design is suitable or necessary for New Zealand” and that it is a “originally German system suited to benefit the German supply chain“.
There are a couple of issues in my personal opinion with that.

  1. Passive design is not equal to passive House Design and is not equal to Passive Solar Design.
    We need to be careful what we are saying and comparing with.
  2. I would disagree that the Passive House Standard was developed to suit the German supply chain. It’s been used throughout the whole world and the Americans would do anything but buy stuff from Germany. And they don’t need to.
    It’s been developed to build buildings that would not need too much energy for heating.

However, the Passive House Standard is aiming at energy reduction only, not at health environment or certainly not at working communities. That’s where Bill Dunsters ideas come into the game. He lowers some of the requirements (like airtightness) and is adding other requirements like zero energy and communities.

The living building challenge could be put alongside of those two design standards and is having emphasis again on other things like chemicals, embodies energy, material sourcing etc.

Things not discussed:

I wish that we would have added onto Bill’s presentation and discussed putting this into the New Zealand context and what needs to be done to get such developments underway here. How we can overcome the issues with integrated and proactive town planning, rather than the reactive approach we seem to be having right now. What building regulation changes need to come in and what planning changes?

What were the experiences of Jo Wood and Shayne Brazier with their zero energy house? They delivered a nice and passionate presentation on the progress of their net zero energy house in Pt. Chevalier, Auckland.

What needs to be done to get more of those projects underway? Cost was only briefly touch on by Bill Dunster, showing that a solar PV roof would cost around $600 per m2, whereas a standard roof is only around $60. Yes, you have other added benefits, however how do I justify an additional $48,000 for a solar PV roof when the payback would be something around 20 years (not including rise in energy cost with assumed monthly energy cost of $200) ?

Totally superfluous in that regard was the presentation of Philips New Zealand on LED lighting. Rather a salespitch showcasing the increase in house value due to increase of LED lighting. Well, you could have done that effect with any type of lighting, even with the 1880 incandescent light technology.

Sustainability by extract fan?

Homestar did a presentation on their rating tool. Funny enough they showcased three buildings, two 7 star rated buildings and one 6 star rated building. When you go the the homestar website however, you will find that a rating of 6 ia “average”. So why would we be showcasing average and just above average homes?
I did a rating on my house and it comes up with 4 stars. When I add an extract fan for the bathroom, all of a sudden I have a 6 star rating. Sustainability by extract fan? Well, I have a thing called window in the bathroom, that I can open. Not sure why I would want an electric extract fan. And with the increase in airtightness in buildings, when I extract air, where does the fresh air come in? My personal opinion is that we are on the wrong track here.

Enough bitching.


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