News Items

News Archive

 

Better-than-Code KiwiBuild houses would deliver big savings

A new report finds benefits of $331m if KiwiBuild houses are built to achieve a Homestar 6 rating.

The report, Codebreakers: Constructing KiwiBuild homes to a standard above the New Zealand Building Code was written by economic consultancy Sense Partners for the New Zealand Green Building Council. It examines costs and benefits of constructing the planned KiwiBuild homes to New Zealand Building Code minimums, against building to a Homestar 6 level, which means a much more sustainable home.

Building to comply with the requirements of the Homestar 6 rating adds around 2.0–2.6% to costs compared to a home that just meets Building Code minimums. Over the longer term the house will deliver worthwhile net benefits, however.

Looking at personal costs (such as reduced water charges in Auckland) as well as reduced social costs such as less waste/fewer carbon emissions, the long-term benefits are over $3,200 for Auckland houses, $3,700 in Wellington and $2,900 in Auckland.

Find more information here.

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Solar installations heading towards 20,000

New Zealand is close to passing the milestone where over 20,000 homes have solar power generation systems installed.

The publication Electricity in New Zealand, recently updated by the Electricity Authority, reports that there were around 18,000 residential connections with installed solar generation at 31 March 2018. Considering the pace of new installations, over 20,000 homes will shortly be generating power from photovoltaic systems.

The installed capacity by 31 March was about 62 MW (up from an estimated 43 MW in mid-2016 and just 8.2 MW in late 2013). As a proportion of total generation it is still very small – around 0.2 percent in 2017.

One big reason explaining the growth of solar installations is greater affordability. The installation cost of solar panel systems in New Zealand fell 75 percent in the 10 years to 2018.

Other sources of renewable energy generation include hydro, geothermal and wind. There is currently around 700 MW of large-scale wind generation available, supplying around five percent of the country’s electricity needs.

Around 85 percent of total generation is from renewable sources, a figure that is steadily increasing. The government has a target of 100 percent renewable energy output (in years with normal hydro inflows) by 2035.

You can download of copy of Electricity in New Zealand here.

 

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Wood waste a winner

One of the top producers of timber for the building industry was a big winner in the EECA Business Awards 2018.

Rotorua-based Red Stag Timber Company won the Large Energy User of the Year award. Instead of trucking wood waste to landfill, the company uses it to fuel
 a new 4.2MW steam turbine and a 10MW biomass boiler at its wood-processing plant. Around 60 percent of the heat generated is used in the kiln drying process.

Res Stag annually processes more than one million tonnes of logs at its Waipa mill, producing SG framing timber, non-structural timber and landscaping timber, among other products.

The amount of electricity produced by the mill is equivalent to the amount needed to power 7,000 houses.

 

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No housebuilding peak in sight

Housebuilding nationally is in a long growth phase with no peak forecast in the next 6 years.

The National Construction Pipeline Report 2018, released at the end of July, forecasts national building and construction activity up to 31 December 2023.

By 2023:

  • National dwelling consents are expected to exceed historic highs at 43,000 per annum.
  • Over 220,000 dwellings are expected to be consented between 2018 and 2023.
  • New Zealand’s total construction value (which has been just under $37b for each of the last two years) is forecast to grow to $41b. Much of the growth will come 2021–2023.
  • Auckland is forecast to have the largest residential building growth by value, increasing by 33% to reach over $10b in 2023.
  • Wellington, the smallest region by residential building value, is expected to see the strongest percentage growth, increasing 65% from $1.5b per annum in 2017 to $2.5b in 2023. (Wellington experienced the strongest total construction growth – 11% – in 2017.)


For the first time since the report was initiated in 2013 a peak in total construction value is not expected within the forecast period. Instead a more moderate sustained growth is forecast for the next six years.

The residential building and dwelling forecasts used do not differentiate between KiwiBuild and non-KiwiBuild dwelling construction.

The National Construction Pipeline Report was commissioned by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) and jointly prepared by BRANZ and Pacifecon.

The 2018 report together with earlier reports can be found here

 

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Better-than-Code KiwiBuild houses would deliver big savings

A new report finds benefits of $331m if KiwiBuild houses are built to achieve a Homestar 6 rating.

The report, Codebreakers: Constructing KiwiBuild homes to a standard above the New Zealand Building Code was written by economic consultancy Sense Partners for the New Zealand Green Building Council. It examines costs and benefits of constructing the planned KiwiBuild homes to New Zealand Building Code minimums, against building to a Homestar 6 level, which means a much more sustainable home.

Building to comply with the requirements of the Homestar 6 rating adds around 2.0–2.6% to costs compared to a home that just meets Building Code minimums. Over the longer term the house will deliver worthwhile net benefits, however.Looking at personal costs (such as reduced water charges in Auckland) as well as reduced social costs such as less waste/fewer carbon emissions, the long-term benefits are over $3,200 for Auckland houses, $3,700 in Wellington and $2,900 in Auckland.

Find more information here.

 

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Universal design conference

Different areas of universal design, including house design, are the focus for an Auckland conference in September.

Universal design is about producing environments that are accessible to all people of all abilities, at all stages of life. It is about making design inclusive. The conference covers a wide range of topics including intergenerational living, housing for aging populations using universal design strategies, child-centred design, inspirational design, medium-density living and more.

The conference takes place 6–7 September at the Victory Convention Centre in Freeman’s Bay, Auckland. You can find more information here.

 

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New version of the Wiring Rules out

An updated version of the key standard AS/NZS 3000 (commonly known as the Wiring Rules) has just been issued.

AS/NZS 3000:2018 Electrical Installations (known as the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules) has been published by Standards New Zealand. This document specifies the electrical installation safety requirements for all premises in New Zealand and Australia.

It is being released in a soft 12-month rollout. The Electricity (Safety) Regulations 2010 still cite AS/NZS 3000:2007 (including Amendments 1 and 2). This means the 2007 standard must still be used to ensure compliance with the Regulations, until the Regulations are updated to cite the 2018 edition. This is likely to happen in 2019.

The new version of AS/NZS 3000 is designed to be more user-friendly and to clarify a few areas that had been open to interpretation in the old version.
There are a few changes in content too. For example, there are additional wider requirements for the installation of residual current devices (RCDs) in outdoor locations. There are new requirements around recessed downlights, through the citing of AS/NZS 60598.2.2:2016. None of the changes deal with critical safety issues.

Make sure you have the proper document. Standards New Zealand has warned that there is a document circulating on social media purporting to be the new edition of the AS/NZS 3000:2018. This document is not authorised by Standards New Zealand. “Electricians are warned not to use the unauthorised document under any circumstances.”

 

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New grants for home insulation and heating

A new four-year programme will install insulation and heating devices in the homes of low-income households.

The $142 million programme known as Warmer Kiwi Homes will be delivered by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).

In the first year, grants will be available to cover ceiling and underfloor insulation and ground moisture barriers. The grants could cover two-thirds of the cost. Grants to install heating appliances will be available from July 2019.

To be eligible, households must:

  • have a Community Services Card, OR
  • live in a New Zealand Deprivation Index decile 9 or 10 area, OR
  • be referred through the Ministry of Health’s Healthy Homes Initiative.

Homeowners can apply for insulation grants from 1 July 2018.

Details can be found here.

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EECA to launch new energy efficiency tool

EECA will launch a new online tool in June that will identify energy-efficient appliances.

When the tool launches it will cover heat pump air conditioners, televisions, fridge/freezers, clothes washers, clothes dryers and dishwashers.

In the following months, computer monitors, gas water heaters, electric water heaters, building chillers, commercial refrigeration and close control air conditioners will be added.

The Rightware tool will help consumers and businesses to find the most energy efficient products that are regulated in New Zealand. In addition to assessing energy efficiency, the tool allows filtering by other categories including size, brand etc.

You can find out more about the Rightware tool in a short video here.

 

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BuildNZ coming to Auckland in July

There will be a wealth of construction and sustainability information at the Buildnz/designex show in July.

The long-running trade show gives the opportunity to see new products and new technologies coming onto the market. You will also have the chance to see what is behind some fast-growing areas of construction such as prefabrication.

Seminars will be given by product manufacturers, architects, engineers and others on topics including sustainability issues.

At the same location, The National Safety Show will offer updates around the products, services and innovations around work safety.

The event will be held at the ASB Showgrounds in Auckland on 4–5 July 2018.

You can find more information here.

 

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Housing Summit

The New Zealand Green Building Council will hold a Housing Summit in Auckland on 20 June.

The one-day summit has a line-up of local and international speakers, including Matt Petersen, who is the first Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) for the City of Los Angeles.

The summit runs 8am–4.30pm and is being held at the Grand Millenium Hotel on Auckland’s Mayoral Drive.

More details here.

 

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Entries open for Apprentice of the Year

Entries are now open for carpentry apprentices to compete for the title 2018 Registered Master Builders CARTERS Apprentice of the Year.

For the first time this year there is a practical challenge at the regional competition. Apprentices will be judged on their initial entry submission. The top 10 from each region go through to an interview and a site visit where they can explain their project.

The regional winners compete at the national competition in Auckland in November. As well as the Apprentice of the Year title there is more than $100,000 in prizes.

Employers who support apprentices don’t miss out. Registered Master Builders will make an award for employers this year.

Carpentry apprentices can enter the competition here. Entries close on Monday 4 June.

 

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Building standards access and updates

Some key building standards can now be read online for free while others are about to be updated.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has sponsored some key building-related standards so they can be read online at no charge. They are:

  • NZS 3902:2004 Housing, alterations and small buildings contract
  • NZS 4121:2001 Design for access and mobility: Buildings and associated facilities
  • NZS 4218:2009 Thermal insulation – Housing and small buildings
  • NZS 4514:2009 Interconnected smoke alarms for houses
  • NZS 8500:2006 Safety barriers and fences around swimming pools, spas and hot tubs
  • SNZ HB 3604:2011 Timber-framed buildings – Selected extracts from NZS 3604:2011

Some other key building standards are in the process of being updated and are now open for comment. They include:

  • NZS 3602:2003 Timber and wood based products for use in buildings
  • NZS 3640:2003 Chemical preservation of timber and wood based products

You can find more details on the Standards New Zealand website.

MBIE has also launched a new search engine, Building CodeHub, to help people find the latest building rules and guidance information.

 

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Energy efficiency gains of $300 million possible

A new report says significant benefits are achievable from greater household energy efficiency.

The gains won’t be achieved without action, however. That is the finding of a recent report prepared by Concept Consulting Group for EECA.

The report, What is the case for electricity efficiency initiatives? states that more than half of household peak electricity demand is made up of lighting and space heating.

It was estimated that in 2015, efficient LEDs made up only 20% of the residential lighting stock. Replacing an incandescent bulb with an LED saves the householder $75 – but the net savings to New Zealand are actually around $150, the report estimates.
 
There are also potential gains from greater uptake of heat pumps.

When improvements are considered together, a reduction in residential peak electricity demand of around 30 percent is possible.

The estimated realisable net benefits come from network and generation capital expenditure savings, lower generation operating expenditure and carbon savings.

The report can be downloaded here.


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Power system can handle solar PV growth

Research shows New Zealand’s electricity system can handle a significant increase in solar PV installations.

Transpower recently issued a discussion document Solar PV in New Zealand. The document looks at research into how the quickly-growing number of grid-connected solar PV systems might impact on the national electricity grid.

The research was done because rooftop solar PV electricity is different from
electricity generated in other ways. Small solar PV installations are widely spread out across the country and are not as easy to manage from a system level
compared to a single big generator such as a gas-fired power station.

Transpower stress-tested the system against a scenario with a substantial amount of solar PV in New Zealand. Their findings: “We know it is already in a good
position to enable an increase in solar PV in our communities now and in the
future.”

Some of the issues that need to be considered if there is a big growth in solar generation include:

  • There will be a huge increase in demand for electricity from other sources at night, when people who use solar power during the day switch to power from the grid after sunset. Can enough electricity from other sources be appropriately supplied to meet this demand?
  • If there is a failure in part of the power system, can it recover to a steady, stable state if there is a lot of solar PV in the mix?
  • If there is lower demand for electricity from the grid and more local supply from solar PV, will some regional parts of the grid be harder to manage?


The study showed that the core transmission network can accommodate significant new solar PV. This is because of its ability to accommodate two-way power flows (north-to-south and south-to-north) and for hydro generation to cover short-term variations in generation from other sources.

 

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Asbestos awareness

The NZ Demolition & Asbestos Association and WorkSafe New Zealand are holding  an Asbestos Awareness Week 2018 Conference & Expo in April. It is being held at Alexandra Park Raceway in Auckland on Thursday 12 April from 10am–4.30pm. This is a free education day.

Most work-related deaths in New Zealand are the result of exposure to asbestos. Two-thirds of the people reported to have asbestos-related disease are tradespeople. Around 170 New Zealanders die each year from asbestos-related illnesses.

Some of the rules around Class A asbestos removal change on 4 April. From that date, anyone carrying out air monitoring or clearance inspections for Class A asbestos removal, or issuing clearance certificates for the work, will need to hold an Assessor licence.

For more information about asbestos, see the Level page or the WorkSafe website.

 

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Grid-connected battery trial coming this year

A South Auckland trial of a battery technology that could power thousands of homes will begin this year.

The large Tesla PowerPack lithium ion battery will take energy from the national grid, store it, and return it as required, such as when energy demand spikes or there is a disruption in the normal supply.

The energy company Mercury NZ says the 1MW/2MWh battery will be installed by August 2018.

In South Australia, a 100MW/129MWh project using the same PowerPack  technology is the largest installation of its type in the world. Tesla has said the installation there will be able to provide sufficient electricity for 30,000 homes for a whole day. In its first full month of operation, December 2017, it generated up to 100 MW of power. The battery installation responded quickly to several major energy outages.

The state of Victoria has since announced its own agreement to establish a grid-connected battery with Tesla. As with the South Australian installation, the Victoria project will take and store energy from a nearby wind farm.

 

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Net zero energy visitor accommodation

A Glenorchy visitor complex set to open using net zero energy has put the details of its construction online.

A visitor accommodation complex set to open in 2018 amid the mountains of Glenorchy aims to use just half the energy and water of similar facilities. It aims for net zero energy – generating as much energy as it uses. And it has been built using building materials carefully researched and selected for their sustainability.

The project’s design aims to achieve the Living Building Challenge net zero energy building certification – one of the toughest measures of environmental sustainability.

A high level of thermal performance is delivered by structural insulating panels. These 142 mm thick panels have a core of insulating foam, and can deliver a result significantly higher than building requirements.

Other building materials include reclaimed wood from agricultural buildings.

The materials used and how they were selected have been set out on the project’s website.

You can find more details here.

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Green housing winners in sustainable awards

People behind sustainable housing initiatives did well in the recent NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards.

Winner of the Sustainability Superstar award was Bob Burnett of Bob Burnett Architecture. Bob designed New Zealand’s first 10-star Homestar rated homes. He also founded the Superhome Movement, promoting energy efficient, sustainable homes.

Vector won the Revolutionising Energy award. The company partnered with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei on a 30-home residential development for first-home buyers that includes a networked system of solar panels and batteries. Networking means that individual residents can share excess power with others in the community. In the first five months following installation, 47% of the community’s energy needs were met by onsite generation.

 

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Slow pace of insulation retrofits in rentals

Rental property owners are moving too slowly to meet insulation requirements, a survey suggests.

A member survey by the Insulation Association of New Zealand suggests that property owners are moving very slowly to meet the July 1, 2019 deadline for insulation in rental properties.

Government estimates indicate that around 180,000 residential properties need to be retrofitted with insulation to meet requirements in the Residential Tenancies Act. The requirements were set in May 2016, with a deadline for compliance of July 2019.

However, the insulation industry estimates that only 10,000 out of the 180,000 homes have been retrofitted in the past year.

(The general rule requires ceiling insulation of R 2.9 for properties in zone 1 or 2, and R 3.3 for properties in zone 3, where insulation is reasonably practicable to install. Ground floor suspended floors must have insulation of at least R 1.3. There are special rules for ceiling insulation originally installed before 1 July 2016.)
 
Rental property owners who fail to comply could face a fine of up to $4000.

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Membership leap at Green Building Council

2017 has seen a host of new organisations join the New Zealand Green Building Council.

The Council now has over 400 members.

Arrivals this year include government bodies as well as corporates, including ANZ, Auckland Airport, Bunnings, Housing New Zealand, Methven NZ, Ministry of Education, New Zealand Defence Force, Oceania Healthcare, Ports of Auckland and Watercare.

The New Zealand Green Building Council was founded in July 2005 to promote safe, warm, healthy and efficient buildings. It had 31 member companies when it was founded. Its key services include the building rating tools it administers: Homestar, Green Star and NABERS NZ.


In October 2017, Gary Walker, the executive general manager of Hawkins, was voted in as the new Chair of NZGBC.

 

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Small homes win top award

Sustainable city homes win supreme design award.

Two 74m2 Christchurch city homes took the supreme award in the 2017 ADNZ/Resene Architectural Design Awards. The award judges described the Madras Street cottages on a 300m2 central city site as "an exemplar for urban living".

The two-storey cottages were designed by Mitchell Coll of Coll Architecture. Energy efficiency and sustainability were a key part of the design decisions made.

ADNZ Chief Executive Astrid Andersen said the winning cottages were game-changing for the industry. "It opens the door for New Zealand to lead the way in multi-unit compact home design."

Part of the distinctive exteriors have rusted Corten steel fixed as a rain screen.

Careful thought has been put into durability. If a landowner wants to make other use of the site, the two cottages can be unbolted and transported to another location. If a serious earthquake hits, the foundation design of steel bearers on screw piles includes adjustable brackets that allow the structure to be relevelled.

 

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Building firms in awards finals

Building industry companies are among finalists in the 2017 NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards.

A finalist for the category “Sustainability Superstar” is Bob Burnett, who founded the Superhome Movement that encourages energy efficient, sustainable homes. Bob designed New Zealand’s first 10-star Homestar rated home.

A finalist in the “Going Circular” category is Clearsite Demolition Ltd, which deconstructs houses rather than just demolishing them. Timber, historical features, and fixtures and fittings are recovered and reused, repurposed or recycled, reducing what goes to landfill by half.

A finalist in the “Revolutionising Energy” category is Tauranga firm HR Cement, which is developed a new cement with a much lower carbon footprint than normal cement.

The winners will be announced on 30th November.

You can find more details here.

 

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Damp homes may cause asthma

Mould in New Zealand houses may be a cause of young children developing asthma, a new study has found.

The study looked at the homes of 150 children making a first visit to a doctor for asthma medication and the homes of 300 children who had never has asthma symptoms.
 
Dampness and mould were found more frequently in the bedrooms and homes of children who had developed asthma compared to the others. The more mould found in the bedroom, the higher the risk that a child would develop asthma.
 
Researchers at the University of Otago, Wellington, say it has long been known that damp homes can make asthma worse. This study goes beyond that, showing that the mould in houses may actually be a cause of the asthma in the first place.

The study has been published in the international journal Indoor Air.

A BRANZ survey of 560 New Zealand homes in 2015/2016 found mould present in around half of them. Ventilation was found to be insufficient. Half of all bathrooms and kitchens did not have extract fans to vent damp air outside to the house.

 

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A sustainable Expo

Auckland Build Expo 2017, on 2–3 November, will have a lot of information about sustainable construction. Read more.

Conference speakers include:

  • Andrew Eagles from the New Zealand Green Building Council, speaking on ‘The coming revolution to buildings and homes’
  • Francesca Lipscome, speaking on ‘Building products and the importance of Ecolabels in NZ’
  • Alec Couchman, speaking on ‘Passiv-Haus building in Christchurch’
  • Evžen Novák, speaking on ‘Sustainable architecture using timber technology’.

Build 2017 includes a Sustainability Summit. In addition to a variety of presentations, this includes an exhibition feature area.

Auckland Build 2017 takes place at ASB Showgrounds, Greenlane, Epsom, Auckland, 9.30am–5.30pm, 2–3 November.

Find more information here.

 

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Homestar certification in new partnership

Superhome tour homes will get Homestar certification under a new agreement. This is the result of a new partnership between the New Zealand Green Building Council and the Superhome movement.. A new partnership between the New Zealand Green Building Council and the Superhome movement will see Superhome buildings verified under NZGBC’s Homestar scheme.

The Superhome movement was started in Christchurch by architectural designer Boib Burnett, who designed the first New Zealand home to be given a 10-star Homestar rating.

The movement supports greater sustainability in houses and provides tours of innovative homes. Over 3,000 people have taken advantage of the tours to date.

There are plans to expand to provide tours in other centres including Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown and Wanaka.

 

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Homestar V4 launched

Version 4 of the Homestar efficiency rating tool has been officially launched.

The new easier-to-use version of the Homestar tool is now in place. The tool measures efficiency of New Zealand houses and apartments, encouraging the construction of warmer, drier, healthier homes. It rates homes on a scale up to 10.

The tool can be applied to both plans and to a finished home. The areas it considers include site, materials, waste, energy, health and comfort, water and home management.

The New Zealand Green Building Council launched the first version of Homestar in 2011. The latest version, refined after industry input, streamlines the assessment process.

 

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$78,000 fine for safety breaches

A construction firm and kitchen firm with the same director were recently fined $78,000 for breaches of health and safety law.

Two workers suffered severe hand injuries from a bench saw blade while they were cutting wood. The employees had not been trained in how to safely operate the equipment and the employer did not have any systems to identify and manage risks. WorkSafe was not notified of either injury as it should have been and only became aware of the incidents some time later.

A notifiable injury is a serious injury that requires immediate treatment other than first aid. Examples include serious deep cuts, loss of consciousness, a burn serious enough to require a compression garment or skin graft, a metal fragment or wood chip entering the eye, or a spinal injury.

You can report an incident to WorkSafe by phone (0800 030 040), completing an online form or downloading and completing a form.

In the 2 years to the end of July 2017, the construction industry had 827 notifiable injuries or illnesses, the highest number of all industry groups.

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Standard for renewable energy battery systems

A new standard is being developed for battery systems used with photovoltaic and other renewable energy systems.

The draft standard is DR AS/NZS 5139:2017 Electrical installations—Safety of battery systems for use with power conversion equipment. Existing standard do not cover recent developments, which Standards New Zealand notes include:

  • Newer battery systems such as lithium technologies (lithium ion, lithium iron phosphate), flow technologies (zinc bromine, vanadium redox flow) and hybrid ion technologies.
  • New developments such as multiple-mode inverters. These can result in batteries being continually connected to the grid, and also include a PV or other energy source as an integrated system. 

  • Significant falls in the costs of battery systems, resulting in use with more applications and a wider uptake, including in houses. 


The new standard contains a lot of information to boost the level of knowledge and understanding. It looks at risks that may be associated with battery systems, and specifies installation methods that eliminate or reduce risk.

The new standard is based on (and supercedes) an Australian standard, AS 4086.2—1997.  

The closing date for comment on the new standard is 15 August 2017. The details are available here.

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Insulation grants scheme expanded

The Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes insulation grants scheme has been extended to include low-income homeowners.

The grants pay for half the cost of ceiling and underfloor insulation for low-income homeowners (as well as low-income tenants who are already eligible). The money will be available until the end of June 2018.

To be eligible, homeowners must be living in a home built before the year 2000 and hold a Community Services Card.

Since its inception, the Warm Up New Zealand insulation grants scheme has insulated around 300,000 homes. Originally due to end in June 2016, the scheme was extended in the 2016 Budget with $18 million allocated until the end of June 2018.

Government data suggests that the avoided health costs from for Community Services Card holders getting their homes insulated are on average $854 a year.

There are certain insulation providers involved in the scheme in each region. Details can be found here.

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Homestar V4 on the way

A new version of the Homestar standard, Version 4, is due for release at the end of July.

The Homestar rating tool measures the sustainability and performance of a house with a score from 1 to 10. The new version of the rating tool, developed with industry input, makes the assessment process easier.

There has been a significant jump in the number of new homes registering with Homestar in the last two years, from under 1,000 to over 6,700.  

You can find more information here.

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Smarter Homes website relaunched

The New Zealand website Smarter Homes, with information about sustainable building for consumers and building professionals, has been relaunched.

Smarter Homes is administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) in partnership with Beacon Pathway. Its non-technical and accessible presentation makes it ideal as a resource for homeowners looking to build or renovate.

The website www.smarterhomes.org.nz covers a wide range of topics, from choosing a site for a new home through to decisions around design, construction materials, water and waste and energy use.

The site was originally created several years ago, but has been relaunched with updated content and new design.

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ENERGY STAR set to end

The ENERGY STAR scheme, whose mark can be found on products and appliances that have superior energy efficiency, is to end in December 2017.

Products and appliances that carry the ENERGY STAR label range from windows, solar water heaters and heat pumps through to washing machines, dishwashers and fridge/freezers.

When it announced the end of the scheme, EECA (the government’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) said that while public recognition of the label was high, it wasn’t leading to more people buying high performing products.

Market research revealed that people want more in-depth information, such as the comparison of running costs that is behind the Energy Rating Labels on appliances. EECA is responding by developing an online tool to help people find energy efficient products that includes performance considerations.

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Poor maintenance of rental housing

Rental properties were twice as likely to be rated “poorly maintained” compared to owner-occupied houses in the latest BRANZ House Condition Survey.

The BRANZ House Condition Survey has been conducted roughly every 5 years since 1994. In 2010 rental properties were included for the first time, and a gap was found between the maintenance levels of owner-occupied and rental properties, with the maintenance of rental properties being noticeably poorer. Analysis of the latest (2015/16) survey data has found the pattern again.

Of the 560 houses examined, rental homes overall were in poorer condition both inside and out. The gap between rental and owner-occupied was widest for interior linings and fittings and exterior doors and windows. A slightly higher prevalence of mould was seen in rental properties.

The study report with the details of the survey can be downloaded here.

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Retrofitted apartment performance

BRANZ has released a report detailing the performance achieved in an apartment block retrofit.

Retrofit performance measurement of Kotuku Apartments reports on the upgrading of four Wellington City Council apartment blocks over 2014–2017. Experiments were carried out on the site to assess comfort, cost and liveability.

The work found that there were marked improvements in whole-building thermal performance. The heat loss of wall elements has reduced considerably. There was also an improvement in the thermal comfort in individual apartments.

The new showers were found to provide a considerably better user experience while not increasing hot water costs significantly.

SR 369 (2017) Retrofit performance measurement of Kotuku Apartments can be downloaded here.

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Farewell to foil

Foil insulation can no longer be specified under the Acceptable Solution H1/AS1 for Building Code compliance.

The Fourth Edition of H1/AS1, which became effective on 1 January 2017, specifically excludes the use of foil insulation.

The previous version (which ceases to have effect on 30 May 2017) permitted 100 mm draped foil as floor insulation on suspended floors with closed perimeter.

The use of foil underfloor insulation had reduced considerably in recent decades. BRANZ for many years has specifically recommended that it not be used. However, surveys indicate that it was still used in a few cases.

Retrofitting or repairing foil insulation under houses has been banned since 1 July 2016. People using staples or nails to attach the foil to timber members have sometimes accidentally pierced a live electrical cable. There have been five electrocution deaths and one non-fatal shock reported in New Zealand as a result.

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A photovoltaic and electric car boom may leave the poor worse off

If PV generation and electric car use grows but electricity pricing structures don’t change, poor consumers may suffer.

A new report has examined potential social impacts of solar panels, electric vehicles and batteries, and in particular the impact on household power bills. One of its key findings is that “poorer consumers are likely to be worse-off on average, if existing electricity pricing structures are retained and there is significant uptake of new technology…

“Under current pricing structures, households that install solar panels typically see a fall in their power bills that is much larger than the true level of cost saving. This creates a cost shortfall that will be ‘shifted’ to other consumers – mainly onto households without solar panels.”

The researchers examined power usage for over 100,000 households, looking at this against socio-economic data to estimate the impact of cost shifting.

“In a scenario where existing electricity pricing structures are retained and there is 50% uptake of solar panels, we expect power bills for the poorest 10% of households to increase by around $60/year on average, whereas the wealthiest 10% of households will enjoy average bill reductions of ≈ $160/year.”

In some cases, the poorest households would see increases of $350/year in their power bills.

The authors suggest that New Zealand adopts an electricity pricing structure better aligned with the actual cost of supplying electricity. Prices would better reflect the costs around customer’s individual electricity use profiles.

The report is the third and final report in the series Electric cars, solar panels and batteries in New Zealand. The first report considered potential greenhouse gas emission impacts of the technologies, the second considered the costs and benefits for consumers and New Zealand. Concept Consulting Group produced the reports, with support from electricity companies and Consumer New Zealand.

All 3 reports are available here.

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Strengthen building regs says OECD

Strengthen building regs says OECDStrengthen building regs says OECD

An OECD report says New Zealand should consider modernising national building standards.

The report, an environmental performance review for the country, says our building standards are below standards required in many other OECD member countries.

New Zealand is one of the most urbanized countries in the world, with 86% of the population living in towns and cities of 1000 people or more, so the environmental footprint of cities is particularly important.

“The environmental performance of the housing stock in New Zealand cities is relatively poor. About 30% of New Zealand homes are poorly insulated and a quarter of homeowners and a third of renters report problems with dampness or mould.”

The report says that subsidies under Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes programme retrofitted about 15% of the national housing stock.

“To avoid retrofitting needs for new housing, the government should consider modernising national building standards… New Zealand operates different voluntary building performance rating tools. Making assessments (e.g. for energy performance) mandatory for certain buildings, and gradually rolling out requirements to a larger share of the housing stock, would encourage the market to factor in energy efficiency into property prices. Building performance could also be linked to fiscal instruments (e.g. development contributions in Wellington are lower for buildings with strong environmental performance), or ease regulatory requirements (e.g. granting additional floor area for high-performing buildings).”

The report finds that local authorities have implemented the Resources Management Act without national guidance in many areas and this has resulted in inconsistencies. The OECD recommends an evaluation of RMA implementation by local authorities, nationally standardised requirements in some domains and better guidance to local authorities on how to carry out their permitting, compliance monitoring and enforcement responsibilities.

This is the third OECD review. The last was in 2007.

 

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New online PV calculator

A new online calculator tells consumers whether installing a photovoltaic (solar) system will be cost-effective for them.

The calculator sits on the EECA’s Energywise website. It takes into account factors such as geographic region, roof slope, current electricity use and the cost of a PV system. It then gives an estimate of the years it would take for the cost of a PV system to be repaid, and the earnings or losses that would be incurred from installing a system.

The new tool was created by the University of Canterbury’s EPECentre through the GREEN Grid research programme, which is funded by MBIE, Transpower and the EEA. The calculator uses data from NIWA (the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) through its SolarView service.

The calculator is designed for typical New Zealand homes and is not applicable for commercial buildings or off-grid installations.

You can find the calculator here.

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Green Property Summit 2017.

“Future Cities Post 2020” is the theme for the NZGBC/Property Council Green Property Summit 2017, to be held in Auckland on 29 March.

The keynote speaker is Dr John Keung, who has been the CEO of Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA) for the last decade.

There is also a strong lineup of local speakers.

Other activities organized in conjunction with the event include a guided tour of some key sustainable buildings in the Auckland CBD, arranged for the afternoon before the one-day summit.

You can find more information and register here.

 

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Efficiency, renewables keys to the future

Energy efficiency in houses and domestic PV generation take key roles in new energy policy briefs.

The University of Otago’s Centre for Sustainability has released ten policy briefs from its Energy Cultures research. Our housing stock and how it can be improved takes a prominent place.

The policy briefs point out that change is required. Our greenhouse gas emissions are trending upwards and are already among the highest in the world on a per-capita basis. Changing the agricultural component of this is difficult, but the path for making a difference in our housing stock is clear.

Professor of Construction at Massey University, Robyn Phipps, says New Zealand lags behind many developed countries in energy efficiency. “A properly insulated home, with some thermal mass being warmed by correctly placed windows, will need almost no extra heating or cooling. Regrettably, many home designers turn to heat pumps rather than good design solutions.”

“Our energy standards are lower than many countries with even warmer climates.” She points out that we have fewer PV panels installed than some countries that receive much less sunshine than New Zealand.

The policy briefs point to research conducted at Oxford University in 2016 that showed PV panels around the world have become approximately 10 per cent cheaper each year since the 1980s, a trend that is likely to continue.

The falling costs are part of the reason behind the rapid growth in uptake of PV generation in New Zealand, with around 12,000 household installations to date. On a domestic level, this is the most popular form of renewable by far – only 47 households generate electricity with wind.

 

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Guidance on supervision

A complaint about the level of supervision carried out by a licensed building practitioner has led to some useful new guidance for builders.

Supervision by an LBP on a building site involves overseeing and controlling or directing the work to make sure that it is done competently and complies with the building consent (where a consent is required).

A complaint made to the Building Practitioners Board about supervision has led to the Board writing a decision that gives useful guidance on the topic.

The decision makes it clear that:

  • The greater the complexity and riskiness in a job, the greater the level of supervision required.
  • Consider a worker’s level of care and attitude. This isn’t necessarily tied to their age or years on the job. It is possible that a thoughtful younger worker with a good eye for detail requires less time being supervised than an older worker who is slapdash and doesn’t read the plans.
  • Consider proven experience. Someone who has done a job expertly a number of times is likely to need less supervision than someone new to the task.
  • Look at the different parts of a job. The parts which are trickier to do will need more supervision than the parts that are easy.
  • In most cases, supervision requires you to be on site with the worker – you can’t give proper supervision from a distance. There is a strict limit to what you can achieve through phone calls etc.

It is best to be cautious at first until you have a clear understanding of the attitides, abilities and experience of the people you are supervising.

A PDF of the full complaint decision can be found here.

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Ventilation seminar

BRANZ scientists are taking a seminar about ventilation on the road from the end of February.

Starting in Dunedin on 27 February, the seminar will go to Queenstown, Christchurch, Auckland (2 locations), Hamilton and Tauranga, and finish in Wellington on 10 March.

The scientists will provide guidance on roof and living space ventilation based on BRANZ research. These seminars are popular because audience members can ask questions to the people who have actually done the key research.

Online registration is available through www.branz.co.nz.

 

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Noise control website

A new website has a lot of information around noise control regulations in buildings.

The website www.regulatorynoise.nz covers the how and why of regulations around noise, including:

  • the New Zealand Building Code (and specifically clause G6 Airborne and impact sound)
  • the Resource Management Act (and especially section 16)
  • district plans
  • common law.  

The website is sponsored by a private company.

 

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Environmental label scheme now covers coated steel

Prepainted and resin-coated steel products that are more environmentally friendly can now carry the Environmental Choice label.

The environmental labelling programme Environmental Choice NZ (ECNZ) has released a new specification (EC-57) for prepainted and resin-coated steel products. This means that people specifying coated metal roofing, cladding, fencing, framing and guttering steel products have new help in selecting a product.

ECNZ already had a specification (EC-41) for flat and long steel products. The new spec expands that further along the production chain, to painting/coating and rollforming/pressing flat steel products.

The specification considers the life of the product from raw material extraction and processing, through coating application and forming, to transport, use, disposal or recovery/recycling. Chemicals and energy used and waste and emissions produced are taken into account.

Manufacturers whose products comply with the new spec can apply for a license to use the Environmental Choice label on their products.

You can read more here.

 

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New asbestos guidance

New guidance around managing and removing asbestos applies from 3 November 2016.

The new Approved Code of Practice: Management and Removal of Asbestos sets out how to comply with new legal requirements, including the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016.

The Code of Practice replaces the existing New Zealand Guidelines for the Management and Removal of Asbestos (3rd Edition)

The Code can be used in court as evidence of whether or not someone complied with the requirements of health and safety law. Breaches of law can be costly – in 2015 a Christchurch company was fined $45,000 for failing to properly identify and manage asbestos at a demolition site.

Many building practitioners will come into contact with materials containing asbestos during renovation or demolition work. BRANZ has estimated that approximately 25,000,000 m2 of asbestos fibre-cement roof and wall claddings were installed on New Zealand buildings in the years 1945–1985.   

Download the Code from the WorkSafe website here.

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New report on PV benefits

A new report describing the financial and environmental benefits of photovoltaic generation in New Zealand has just been released.

The report Solar PV and batteries in New Zealand – Consumer centric electricity was prepared for SEANZ, the Sustainable Electricity Association of New Zealand. It was produced by the Australian energy consulting firm IT Power.

The report says that the energy industry in New Zealand should be open to the greater uptake of photovoltaic (PV) generation.

It says that existing PV installations are already having a positive effect in avoiding emissions of greenhouses gases, and this could grow significantly with expanded PV uptake.

It also examines financial benefits: “On average, during the four years ending 2016, households that have installed solar PV are estimated to have reduced their electricity bills by around $647 per year.”

You can download a PDF of the report here.

 

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Key insulation standard updatedKey insulation standard updated

NZS 4246, which gives guidance on installing bulk insulation in houses, has been updated.

NZS 4246:2016 Energy efficiency – Installing bulk thermal insulation in residential buildings was released in late August. The updated standard replaced the 2006 version on 30 August 2016.

The 160-page standard provides guidance for industry practitioners and consumers on the right way to install bulk insulation products in homes. The aim is to ensure the insulation achieves the intended thermal performance and durability. It also addresses safety issues.

Standards New Zealand states that the 2016 edition:

  • now provides guidance on installing insulation in steel-framed constructions
  • covers concrete slabs on ground
  • updates content for installing insulation around luminaires (where there have been significant technology advances since the standard was last revised in 2006)
  • includes new diagrams, photographs and figures
  • has been rewritten to align with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.


The guidance covers new construction as well as retrofits.

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New standard on electric grid connection via inverter

Standards New Zealand has just released AS/NZS 4777.1:2016 Grid connection of energy systems via inverters - Part 1: Installation requirements.

The new standard describes “the electrical and general safety installation requirements for inverter energy systems (IES) up to or equal to 200 kVA for the injection of electric power to an electrical installation connected to the grid at low voltage.”

It covers design considerations, connection, required documentation and signage, earthing, and some information on electricity distributor requirements.

The new standard was published in 30 September 2016. It sits alongside AS/NZS 4777.2:2015 Grid connection of energy systems via inverters – Part 2: Inverter requirements.

 

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Cost savings from PV studied

A study has found that photovoltaic systems are unlikely to provide consumer cost savings at present, but are set to become increasingly attractive.

The cost effectiveness of solar PV is very sensitive to each consumer’s situation. It is  strongly affected by the level and pattern of power use, choice of panel size, and household location.

An analysis of over 1,000 potential combinations of these factors indicates that while solar PVs are unlikely to provide consumer cost savings in most situations under existing electricity tariff structures, they are likely to become increasingly attractive as panel prices decline further.

Those are some of the findings from the report Electric cars, solar panels, and batteries in New Zealand Volume 2: The benefits and costs to consumers and society. The report was released in June 2016 by Concept Consulting Group.

“Our analysis of batteries shows that they are unlikely to save consumers money based on existing prices. But battery prices are coming down and they are expected to become attractive in some situations over time.”

The report raises the possibility that household batteries may not be the best energy storage option. “Batteries in consumers’ electric vehicles, using the ‘vehicle-to-grid’ injection technologies that are emerging with new EVs, may be a better option in the future.”

Poor electricity and CO2 price signals that don’t help consumers making decisions around PV are also likely to be slowing the uptake of some other technologies, the report finds. These include home insulation, wood burners, efficient lighting, and ‘smart’ appliances.

The report’s authors modelled approximately 1,000 different combinations of consumer situation (usage level and patterns) and PV panel sizes, using two years of hourly sunshine and temperature data for three different locations. The data shows considerable variation in exports. Even households with higher than average power consumption and smaller 2 kW panels are likely to export some power.

The modelling showed a wide range of potential financial outcomes, with relatively few situations yielding a positive net benefit. However, the analysis
indicates that solar PV would become cost effective for around 40% of the modelled household situations within 10 years and for most households within 20 years if retail tariff structures continue unchanged.

You can find more information here.

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BRANZ 2016 Annual Review online

The BRANZ 2016 Annual Review, giving details of its work and research projects, is now available.

This year BRANZ invested $12.4 million in research and knowledge dissemination across 134 projects. Just over half of these projects are being carried out by BRANZ teams. Sixty external projects have been funded involving partnerships and collaboration with 28 research and government agencies.

The new Annual Review gives details of some of the work, in areas such as:

  • managing moisture better
  • better ventilation in roof cavities
  • better use of heat pumps
  • warmer drier apartments.

This year BRANZ’s weathertightness, air quality and ventilation engineering (WAVE) research programme produced useful insights on the importance of roof
ventilation in controlling dampness. BRANZ researchers studied the effects of extra
ventilation in homes with traditional gable roofs and skillion-type roofs (flat roofs with a steep pitch). They found that extra ventilation channels reduced overall
condensation in both roof types compared with roofs with few or no vents. They also found that reducing moisture in living spaces through extra ventilation can
reduce condensation in the roof space.

BRANZ researchers also worked with Wellington City Council on the refurbishment of a 1960s apartment complex. BRANZ modelling indicated that the proposed upgrades would make a massive improvement. Now the refurbishment is completed and the tenants back in their homes, BRANZ researchers are collecting data on actual thermal performance, monitoring temperatures and energy use to track how heat flows in and out of apartments. The findings will help other low to medium-income housing providers to deliver better quality accommodation.

BRANZ released a new online resource to support better earthquake-resilient design and raise the seismic performance of New Zealand’s building stock.

The Appraisals team carried out a new type of Appraisal, for a green roof
that could support grasses and trees.

BRANZ supports Insulating Glass Unit Manufacturers Association (IGUMA) members by testing the 38 different double-glazing systems being manufactured.

BRANZ is now taking steps to become a fully accredited product certification body
that provides CodeMark certification.

You can read more in the 2016 Annual Review online here.

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World Green Building Week 2016

World Green Building Week 2016 runs 26 September–2 October. It will be marked in New Zealand with a range of interesting activities.

Building tours, walking tours and bus tours are all planned.

On 28 September you get a chance to see inside the 5 Green Star-rated Kathmandu and Vodafone buildings in the Christchurch Innovation Precinct.

Auckland events include:

  • A green architecture walking tour on 25 September taking in some key downtown Auckland buildings.
  • A bus tour on 27 September that includes the 5 Green Star-rated Hobsonville Point Primary School and a renovated house that went from 2 to 9 Homestar rating.
  • An introductory session on green buildings on September 29.

There is also a photography competition open to New Zealand students. Photograph(s) must be uploaded to Instagram by 23 September (meeting certain conditions) and will be judged on 26 September. The competition runs from 29 August.

Registration is required for some events. You can find out more on the New Zealand Green Building Council website.

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New research, wind and structural design

Standards New Zealand has published an amendment about wind actions to the Structural design actions standard, AS/NZS 1170.2.

This revision incorporates research and experiences from severe wind events in Australia and New Zealand and removes some ambiguities.

The amendment can be downloaded from the Standards New Zealand website.

The standard sets out procedures for determining wind speeds and resulting wind actions to be used in the structural design of structures subjected to wind actions other than those caused by tornadoes.

 

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New rules for earthquake-prone buildings

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act brings big changes to the system for identifying and remediating earthquake-prone buildings.

The new system brings more direction from central government and less reliance on individual territorial authorities developing their own policies. TA’s still hold the responsibility for administering the Act in their area, however.

Among the changes:

  • A new national register of earthquake-prone buildings will be developed, including information on the earthquake ratings of the buildings. This will be publicly accessible.
  • A new document will be developed, the Earthquake-Prone Building (EPB) methodology. This will set out how TAs can identify earthquake-prone buildings. The document will include a profiling tool and engineering guidelines for making seismic assessments.
  • EPB notices, which show earthquake ratings, must be placed on earthquake-prone buildings.
  • New Zealand will be divided into 3 seismic risk areas – low, medium and high – based on the seismic hazard factor (‘Z’ factor).
  • Based on these risk areas, there will be targeted timeframes for TAs to identify earthquake-prone buildings and for owners to strengthen or demolish them.
  • A new category of priority buildings in medium and high-risk areas will be defined. These buildings – schools, emergency facilities, certain hospitals etc – must be identified and strengthened in half the time.

The exact date the new law will come into effect has not yet been set, but it will be within the next 2 years.

You can find more information here.

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Health and Safety Awards

Entries have opened for the 2016 Site Safe Construction Health and Safety Awards.

The awards, open to individuals and businesses of all sizes, recognise those who have shown innovation and leadership in health and safety in the building industry. They look for an individual or site or company showing new ideas to support health and safety systems or behaviours or deal with a specific hazard.

Categories include:

  • The Unitec Safety Innovation Award, Small to Medium Business (up to 50 employees).
  • The Safety Innovation Award, Large Business (over 50 employees)
  • The Safety Leadership Award (small, medium or large business)
  • The WorkSafe NZ Safety Contribution Award (individual or small team)

Entries close 1 September. You can find more information here.

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Maintenance schedule tool now free

The BRANZ online tool that can be used to create maintenance schedules for new houses is now free to the building industry.

Maintenance of houses has grown in importance in recent years, and providing details about the maintenance a new home requires is now mandatory for building practitioners under the Building Act.

The BRANZ tool lets the designer or builder record the materials and finishes used in a building. The tool automatically fills in the maintenance requirements. The newly created maintenance schedule can then be given to the homeowners as a printed or electronic copy, and can be saved in the practitioner’s files.

Using the tool simply requires having a My BRANZ account, which can be set up at no cost.

The tool can be found here.

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More funding for insulation in rental properties

New funding is available for insulation in rental properties housing low-income tenants.

Grants will be available from 1 July 2016 for ceiling and underfloor insulation under the Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes programme.

Funding is limited and is not available for all regions. Applications close on 30 June 2016. Although the programme comes at no cost to tenants, landlords may be asked to make a cash contribution.

You can find more information here.

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Report unfit building products

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has set up an email address for reporting building products that do not comply with the Building Code.

The address is: products@mbie.govt.nz. Include in your email the name of the product, where you bought it, why you think it doesn’t comply with the Building Code, any technical data or information and any evidence of failure. Photographs would be helpful.

Sometimes MBIE becomes aware of possible problems through media reports, but doesn’t have specific information directly from the industry. The new email address should help resolve that problem.

An MBIE investigation could lead to a manufacturer or importer/supplier receiving a formal warning or a ban on the use of a product. Other possible actions include guidance prepared for the industry, or requirements made clear to those manufacturing, supplying, specifying or installing building products.

The MBIE’s interest is specifically in the area of building law and the Building Code and standards. If you have a more general complaint about misleading advertising or a false claim, that should go to the Commerce Commission (Tel. 0800 943 600), which is responsible for the Fair Trading Act.

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Ban proposed on retrofitting foil insulation under houses

The serious safety risks around retrofitting foil insulation under houses are likely to see the practice banned.

Stapling foil sheeting under the floors of existing houses has been a relatively inexpensive and popular way of adding underfloor insulation, but there are big risks involved. The main one is that people using staples or nails to attach the foil to timber members accidentally pierce a live electrical cable. There have been five electrocution deaths and one non-fatal shock reported in New Zealand from installation of foil insulation under houses.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is starting consultation on a proposed ban under section 26 of the Building Act. The ban is proposed to be in place by 1 July 2016, when the changes to the Residential Tenancies Act come into force.

The ban would only apply to retrofitting foil to existing buildings, not yet to installation in new buildings. The risk of electrocution does not apply in the same way in most new building installations. (However, BRANZ discourages use of foil for underfloor insulation because it tends to lose performance over time.)

WorkSafe is currently consulting on some guidance and intends for it to be finalised by 1 July 2016. You can read the draft here.

MBIE plans to change Building Code Acceptable Solution H1/AS1 to remove the ability to use foil insulation as an Acceptable Solution. These changes will be consulted on from about June and are intended to be in place by the end of 2016.

Standard NZS 4246 Energy Efficiency – Installing Insulation in Residential Buildings is also being revised and Standards New Zealand is beginning the final consultation on it.

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An introduction to life cycle assessment

A new BRANZ bulletin explains this tool for calculating the potential environmental impacts of building materials.

Buildings consume a lot of resources and energy in their construction and their use over many decades. But how do you measure and compare the potential environmental impacts of different materials and building elements, and even whole buildings?

Life cycle assessment takes energy simulation model results and combines them with information about materials to show potential impacts. It quantifies use of resources and energy and emissions to land, water and air that occur across the life of any product. LCA is systematic and holistic, looking at manufacture, use and disposal of a building product, from a nail or screw to an entire building.

It can support design decisions by showing the magnitude of potential environmental impacts and where they occur in the life cycle.

It can also help product manufacturers to determine where they should focus their product improvement efforts.
 
Bulletin 596 An Introduction to Life Cycle Assessment sets out the stages of an assessment, its applications, benefits and limits.

The bulletin is available from the BRANZ bookstore.

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Insulation standard open for comments

An updated version of NZS 4246 Energy efficiency – Installing bulk thermal insulation in residential buildings is open for public comments.

This standard outlines the correct way to install insulation products so they achieve the intended thermal performance without compromising durability or safety.

The 2006 standard has been restructured, updated and extended with guidance on installation in steel-framed constructions and for concrete slabs.

The draft of the new standard is open for public comments for 4 weeks, closing on 3 June. It can be found here.

Standards New Zealand encourages comment on a Word form that can be downloaded from its website.

This standard is made up of sections that can be read as a stand-alone set of guidance principles, with reference to other sections as required.

Reflective foil is still excluded excluded from the standard due to concerns about electrical safety risks, in situ thermal performance and durability.

The health and safety details in Appendix B of the standard are being peer reviewed separately.

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Sustainable housing summit 2016

The New Zealand Green Building Council is holding its Sustainable Housing Summits in June.

The international keynote speaker is Vancouver Deputy Mayor Andrea Reimer. Andrea was the lead councillor on the city's Greenest City Action Plan that lead to Vancouver being named the fourth greenest city on earth in 2014. There are other international speakers in the programme along with local practitioners.

The Auckland Summit takes place in the Crowne Plaza Hotel on 15 June. The Christchurch Summit takes place on 17 June in the Christchurch Civic Building on Hereford Street.

Find more information here.

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New Health and Safety Regulations finalised

The new Health and Safety at Work Act has now come into force.

It is important that business owners, especially owners of small businesses, understand the new requirements and what they need to do to comply. As the government puts it, “persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) have duties to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace is without risks to the health and safety of any person.”

WorkSafe is developing fact sheets and other forms of guidance including case studies, videos and interactive tools to help people prepare.

You can find more information on the WorkSafe website here.

You can also subscribe for updates here.

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Photovoltaic units, electric cars and reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Houses with an electric car in the garage will contribute to reduced greenhouse gases more than houses with solar photovoltaic units on their roof, a recent study found.

The study, Electric cars, solar panels and batteries – how will they affect greenhouse gas emissions? was undertaken by Concept Consulting and commissioned by EECA, Consumer and electricity companies. 

The uptake of these technologies is expected to be significant. Falling prices for domestic photovoltaic (PV) generation units have led to a greater number being installed in New Zealand.  This will continue if overseas experience is a guide. The study found that over 40% of homes have a solar panel in some parts of Australia, while in Norway, over 20% of all new car sales are electric vehicles (EVs).

The study analysed how new technology could affect emissions by:

  • displacing conventional power stations (solar panels)
  • increasing power generation needs (EVs)
  • altering the timing of power generation requirements (batteries).

The study found that EV uptake will reduce tailpipe emissions by replacing cars using petrol and diesel, although slightly increasing embodied emissions because EV manufacture is more emissions intensive.

In the near term, the study expects PV uptake to displace generation from existing fossil-fuelled stations and therefore reduce emissions. However, over time, they expect solar PV uptake to increasingly substitute for new low-emission power stations (such as wind and geothermal). PV uptake may therefore have a limited displacement effect on electricity sector emissions in the medium term.

This is different to what happens in most other countries because most of New Zealand’s electricity is generated from renewable sources (hydro, wind and geothermal). Large-scale renewables represent the least cost option for future electricity supply in New Zealand – not the case for most other countries.

The study also considered the combined effect of PV and batteries. It found that batteries combined with PV do not fundamentally alter the results for solar PV by itself because New Zealand’s hydro stations already act like a giant battery and provide flexibility to offset the daily swings in PV output. The study expects batteries to result in a net reduction in emissions over their lifetime, even though there are embodied emissions associated with their manufacture.

At present, the average New Zealand household is estimated to directly cause annual emissions of approximately 7 tCO2. The vast majority of these direct household emissions are from vehicles.

You can read more here.

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New license system for asbestos removal

A national licensing system for asbestos removal is being introduced from 4 April 2016. Three types of licence will be available under new regulations:

Class A licence

Any type or quantity of asbestos or asbestos-containing material, including:

  • any amount of friable asbestos or asbestos containing material (ACM)
  • any amount of asbestos-contaminated dust or debris (ACD)
  • any amount of non-friable asbestos or ACM.

Class B licence

  • Any amount of non-friable asbestos or ACM.
  • ACD associated with removing any amount of non-friable asbestos or ACM.

Asbestos assessor licence

  • An asbestos assessor provides air quality monitoring during removal work, inspects the finished job and provides a clearance certificate.
  • A licensed asbestos assessor will be required to assess Class A asbestos removal work from 2018 onwards.

No licence is required for asbestos removal:

  • up to and including 10 m2 of non-friable asbestos or ACM, cumulatively, over the whole course of the removal project for the site
  • ACD that is associated with removing 10 m2 or less of non-friable asbestos or ACM and any associated minor ACD.

The new removal licences will be held by a business, rather than a person. You can apply for a Class A and Class B licence from 4 April 2016. If you will need a Class B licence, get in touch with WorkSafe now to register your interest and speed up your licence application. For more details, click here.

Current certificate of competence holders will be able to continue removing asbestos (in the categories specified on their certificate) and supervise asbestos removal until their certificate expires.

Removing asbestos without following the rules and taking proper precautions is potentially extremely dangerous – most work-related deaths in the building industry are the result of exposure to asbestos during demolition or renovation.

More detail can be also found at www.asbestosaware.co.nz

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Energy use in the average New Zealand household has fallen by 10% since 2000

The figure comes from a recent study commissioned by the Equipment Energy Efficiency Programme. The researchers go on to forecast that household average energy use will continue to fall to 2030, as will greenhouse gas emissions from households.

New Zealand’s houses are responsible for around 11% of the country’s total energy use, and approximately 7% of greenhouse gas emissions related to energy.

New appliance sales data quoted by EECA suggests that people buying more energy efficient appliances may be behind a large part of the energy savings. In one year, New Zealand saved the amount of electricity used by Invercargill – more than 209 gigawatt-hours. The benefits are quantified as $50 m in savings to consumers and a fall in greenhouse gas emissions broadly equal to the amount of CO2 produced by 10,000 cars in 12 months.

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New heated water standard

The part of the plumbing and drainage standard (AS/NZS 3500) that covers heated water services has just been updated.

In December 2015, the new publication AS/NZS 3500.4:2015 Plumbing and drainage – Part 4: Heated water services was released.

This sets out the requirements for the design, installation and commissioning of heated water services using drinking water or rainwater or a combination of the two.

It includes aspects of the installation from (and including) the valve(s) on the cold water inlet to any cold water storage tank or water heater and the downstream fixtures and fittings.

The standard applies to new installations as well as alterations, additions and repairs to existing installations. It is available from Standards New Zealand. It superseded the earlier (2003) version on 14 December 2015.

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Building Resilience conference coming to Auckland

The 6th International Building Resilience Conference will be held in Auckland in September this year.

The theme is “Building Resilience to Address the Unexpected”. The conference is jointly organized by the Construction Management Groups at Massey University and the University of Auckland. The Global Disaster Resilience Centre (GDRC) at School, of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Huddersfield, UK will be a key partner.

The conference will be held 7–9 September at the University of Auckland.

The Building Resilience conference is an annual international event that looks at resilience for coping with the threat of natural and human induced hazards. Previous conferences were held in Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Abstract submissions for the Auckland conference close on 29 February.

You can find more information here.

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Changes to the Resource Management Act planned

A bill aiming to streamline some areas of resource consents has been introduced to parliament.

The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill was introduced into Parliament on 26 November 2015. It aims to make planning processes faster, more flexible, more cost-effective and more consistent across the country.

Minister for the Environment Nick Smith said the four most significant changes were:

  • a requirement for councils to follow national planning templates to improve consistency across the country
  • three ‘tracks’ to help streamline the planning process
  • giving councils discretion to waive the need for a consent where matters were minor
  • stronger national direction on requiring consents in certain areas.

The Minister said that the Bill narrowed the parties that must be consulted to those directly affected. A 10-day fast-track consent would be introduced for simple issues. Councils would be required to have fixed fees for standard consents so that homeowners had certainty over costs. Consents would no longer be required for activities that are already properly regulated by other Acts. The Minister said that these measures would reduce the number of consents required each year.

If it becomes law the bill would amend the Resource Management Act 1991, the Reserves Act 1977, the Public Works Act 1981, the Conservation Act 1987, the Environmental Protection Authority Act 2011 and the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012.

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New heated water standard

The part of the plumbing and drainage standard (AS/NZS 3500) that covers heated water services has just been updated.

In December 2015, the new publication AS/NZS 3500.4:2015 Plumbing and drainage – Part 4: Heated water services was released.

This sets out the requirements for the design, installation and commissioning of heated water services using drinking water or rainwater or a combination of the two.

It includes aspects of the installation from (and including) the valve(s) on the cold water inlet to any cold water storage tank or water heater and the downstream fixtures and fittings.

The standard applies to new installations as well as alterations, additions and repairs to existing installations. It is available from Standards New Zealand. It superseded the earlier (2003) version on 14 December 2015.

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Homestar update easier to use on apartments

A new version of the sustainability rating tool Homestar will benefit apartment buyers.

Homestar version 3 launched in November 2015, with updates specifically to suit higher-density developments. The upgraded tool aims to make it easier for apartment buyers to gauge the health and efficiency of their homes.

The tool – which awards ratings from 1–10 stars – includes factors specific to multi-home developments:

  • rewarding shared areas such as landscaped areas or playgrounds that promote community activities
  • levels of natural light within apartments
  • efficient heating and air-conditioning
  • use of brownfield sites to minimise urban sprawl.

Homestar, run by the New Zealand Green Building Council, was launched with industry and government backing in 2010.

The recent review was supported by principal sponsor Willis Bond & Co and associate sponsor Ockham Residential. Both developers have been piloting the new Homestar. Willis Bond & Co last month became the first project to achieve Homestar ratings across a large-scale development, with 113 homes at Wynyard Central gaining a rating of at least 7.
Ockham Residential’s new Daisy development in Mt Eden has been appraised as being on track for a 9 Homestar rating.

Although the scheme goes up to 10 stars, the typical existing New Zealand home rates around 2–3, while a new home built only to Building Code minimum requirements would rate around 4. A Bay of Plenty house designed and built by Tauranga-based Belvedere Group was the first to achieve a 10-star rating, in 2015.

The Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan includes a 6 Homestar rating as a minimum requirement for developments with multiple homes, a provision now being applied in Auckland’s Special Housing Areas.

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Entries invited for energy efficiency/renewable energy awards

Entries are open until 5 February 2016 for the EECA Awards 2016.

The awards recognise excellence in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Categories include Small to Medium Energy User, Innovation, Renewable Energy and more.

Companies in the construction sector or with strong construction industry connections have been commended, highly commended or winners in past awards.

Finalists will be announced on 16 April 2016 and the winners announced on 18 May.

You can find more information about the awards here.

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Solar standard update

A key standard for photovoltaic energy systems has just been updated as a joint AS/NZS standard.

AS/NZS 4777.2:2015 Grid connection of energy systems via inverters - Part 2: Inverter requirements was published on October 9 2015. The new joint standard replaces AS 4777.2, and makes a number of changes to that standard.

The document specifies minimum performance and safety requirements for “the design, construction and operation of inverters intended for use in inverter energy systems for the injection of electric power through an electrical installation into the grid.”

This is an important document for anyone involved in the design, specification or installation of grid-connected photovoltaic systems.

The new joint standard should be read in conjunction with:

  • the regulations, service and installation rules of the electricity distributor approving the connection
  • AS/NZS 3000:2007 Electrical Installations (also known as The Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules).

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Solar conference and expo in November

The SEANZ SolarSMART conference will be held on November 13 and 14 in Rotorua.

The two-day SEANZ (Sustainable Electricity Association New Zealand) event includes a conference with five streams and an expo involving manufacturers, importers and wholesalers.

You can get more information here.

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New workplace safety law here

New workplace safety law here

The new Health and Safety at Work Act is now law. It comes into force on 4 April 2016 – until then, the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 still applies.

The new law is part of a package of measures that aims to reduce workplace deaths and injuries by 25% by 2020. All businesses, regardless of size, will need to engage their staff in safety issues. The new law stresses that everyone at work is responsible for health and safety.The Act moves away from general hazard spotting towards managing critical risks – actions that reduce workplace harm rather than trivial hazards. It also moves away from focusing on the physical workplace to how work is actually done. Businesses have to take steps that are “reasonably practicable”. Action will depend on the level of risk involved and what a business can control.Regulations are now being developed to cover risk and workplace management, asbestos, major hazard facilities, and worker participation.

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Construction industry finalists in sustainability awards

Several companies involved in the construction industry are up for awards at the NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards 2015. Winners will be announced on 24 November.

The awards have been running for 13 years and recognise sustainability intitatives by individuals, companies, community organisations and public bodies.
Companies involved in the construction industry from manufacturing through to demolition are among the finalists. They include:

  • Abodo Wood – timber products
  • Solarcity – solar power
  • Laminex New Zealand (Taupo site) – laminates, decorated panels, board products etc.
  • Resene – coatings
  • Smart Hot Water Company – solar hot water
  • CID Resource Recovery – processes waste from construction, demolition and other sources.

The winners will be announced at the Awards night in Auckland on 24 November.

You can get more information here.

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Heat pump households want more information

Householders who install heat pumps are happy with them, but they want more advice about choosing the right size and location.

BRANZ examined 160 households with heat pumps, making site inspections, conducting interviews, and collecting a year of energy use, temperature and humidity data.

Over 94% of the householders would recommend a heat pump to friends or family.

But many said they would have liked more information about:

  • Sizing, location and installation of a heat pump. Over a fifth said that their heat pump was not installed in the best location.
  • The likely running costs. Many said their energy costs had increased. Only 15% described running costs as excellent.
  • Operating instructions. One third said they were not given information on operating or maintaining their heat pump, or found it too difficult to understand.

The study also uncovered a need for more training for some installers:

  • One third of units were fixed with too little ground clearance.
  • Around 10% of outdoor units were unstable.
  • Gaps around the pipes coming out of the ducting were rarely sealed.
  • In 19% of cases, hoses draining condensation from the indoor unit were directed onto paths, which could make them slippery.

Study Report SR 329 (2015) Heat Pumps in New Zealand is downloadable from the website www.branz.nz.

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More renewable energy than ever

Almost 40% of New Zealand’s primary energy now comes from renewable resources – the highest level on record.

It is also the third-highest percentage among OECD countries (behind Iceland and Norway).

The rapid growth of renewable energy is largely accounted for by increasing electricity generation from geothermal sources and reducing generation from coal.

In fact, 80% of electricity generation in 2014 came from renewable resources, a significant jump from 75% in 2013.

The use of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate electricity also increased. Installed capacity as of December 2014 was estimated at 16 GWh, more than double the 2013 figure. As a proportion of total renewable energy it is still extremely small, however, at 0.1%.

The figures come from Energy in New Zealand, the MBIE publication about energy demand, supply and prices. The latest version covers the 2014 calendar year.

You can get more information here.

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New requirements for insulation in rental housing

Proposed law changes will make ceiling and underfloor insulation a requirement in rental properties.

The government is planning to change the Residential Tenancies Act to make insulation compulsory in rental properties. It is expected that the requirement will apply from 1 July 2016 for Housing New Zealand and community housing provider tenancies where tenants pay an income-related rent, and from 1 July 2019 for private rental properties and other types of tenancies.

A bill will be introduced to Parliament later in 2015 to make the changes. It will also contain other changes, such as a new requirement for smoke alarms in all residential rental properties from 1 July 2016.

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Health and safety law progress

New workplace health and safety rules are closer to becoming law.

Some details in the Health and Safety Reform Bill, which sets rules around safety in the workplace, have been changed, but it is on track to being passed into law after being reported back to parliament from select committee in late July. The new law is likely come into force in 2016.

The new law will require greater worker participation in health and safety plans. Businesses in high risk industries – including small businesses – will need to have elected health and safety representatives, but as of late July the government had not determined exactly which industries would be defined as high risk.

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New guide to tolerances, materials and workmanship

MBIE has released a new guide to acceptable levels of workmanship in residential construction that could be useful if there is a dispute.

The Guide to tolerances, materials and workmanship in new residential construction 2015 provides contractors and homeowners with an indication of acceptable levels of workmanship in housebuilding in normal conditions. This will be a key resource if there is a dispute under the consumer protection measures in Part 4A of the Building Act, which came into law earlier this year.

The guide covers a wide area of homebuilding from roof and wall cladding, doors and windows, to linings, painting, tiling, floor finishes and other internal areas to landscaping and grounds outside.

It deals largely with the visual appearance of things rather than Building Code compliance.

You can download the guide from the MBIE website here.

 

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Putting a price on sustainability

Do solar hot water systems or higher-spec window frames add financial value to a house? BRANZ is investigating.

A BRANZ study is looking at how builders, designers, real estate agents, valuers and homebuyers value sustainability and resilience features. Early findings are reported in BRANZ Study Report SR 333 (2015) Valuing sustainability and resilience features in housing.

Sustainable homes include features such as upgraded window frames and heat transfer kits, but also other elements like closeness to public transport.

Resilient homes, with features such as more durable building materials, perform well in disasters like flooding, with lower recovery times and costs.

The research shows that:

  • Homebuyers seldom value sustainability and resilience features over things like a nicer kitchen.
  • Some sustainability features still have a price premium at resale, but less that the installation cost.

Builders from ten large firms were interviewed across Auckland, Christchurch and Tauranga. They did not generally see their role as giving advice, but as delivering what clients wanted, and few clients asked about sustainability and resilience.

Real estate agents who were surveyed about solar hot water systems believed on average that these and photovoltaic (PV) systems added $2,500 and $3,200 value to a house respectively. Valuers gave higher average estimates, at $2,400–3,700 for solar hot water and $4,300–6,500 for PV systems.

The impact of solar hot water on home sale price

A pilot study looked at 1,031 house sales in Nelson, 13 houses with solar water heating but most without. The price difference, with all else held equal, is the premium for solar hot water.

Houses with solar hot water had a premium of 1.35% of house value, an average $7,250 per house, although the sample size of these houses was small.

BRANZ Study Report SR 333 (2015) Valuing sustainability and resilience features in housing can be downloaded here.

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NZ’s first 10-star house

A Bay of Plenty house will be the first in the country to achieve a 10 Homestar rating.

Homestar, launched 5 years ago, rates houses from 1–10 for efficiency, health and comfort. Although several hundred homes have been rated, the new 230 m2 Papamoa home is the first to achieve the maximum possible rating of 10.

Features of the house include:

  • good orientation for the sun
  • underfloor heating uses heat from under the driveway
  • photovoltaic system and solar hot water
  • smart home system that turns on appliances such as dishwasher and washing machine during off-peak periods
  • fully insulated concrete slab edge
  • 140 mm exterior framing for thicker insulation
  • rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling.

The house is designed and built by Tauranga-based Belvedere Group.

You can find more information here.

 

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BRANZ Find

BRANZ Find is a new free digital search tool covering a wide range of New Zealand building and construction information, linking you straight to that information.

Links are provided to:

BRANZ Find

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Green Property Summit presentations available

Presentations from the Green Property Summit 2015 are now available online.

The summit, a collaboration between Property Council New Zealand and the New Zealand Green Building Council, was held in Auckland on 26 March 2015.

Presentation slides that can be viewed online include:

  • An International Perspective on Green Building – Where are we at now? Romilly Madew, Chief Executive, Green Building Council of Australia
  • The SAHMRI Building – Behind the Extraordinary Façade
    Jeffrey Holmes, Director, Woods Bagot, New York
  • Green Building – The New Zealand Picture
    Alex Cutler, Chief Executive, New Zealand Green Building Council
  • Green Property Investment Performance – IPD Green Index Update
    Anthony De Francesco, Executive Director, MSCI Real Estate – IPD
  • Bringing Cities Back to Life: Innovative Urban Regeneration Models
    Nick Ebbs, Vice Chairman, Igloo Regeneration Partnership, UK
  • The Emerging Waterfront
    John Dalzell, Chief Executive, Waterfront Auckland & Mark McGuinness, Managing Director, Willis Bond & Co
  • Performance Art: Analytics and the New Theatre of Design Practice
    Daniel Davis, Senior Researcher, Case, New York

The next Green Property Summit will be held in March 2017.

The presentations can be found here.

 

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Changes to licensing rules

The Licensed Building Practitioners Scheme will introduce some changes from 2 November 2015.

The main change is that two existing activities will become compulsory:

  • Reading LBP News (part of MBIE’s Codewords newsletter). The articles will focus on relevant changes in law and technology. There will be a short quiz on the key points.

  • Identifying two examples of on-the-job learning over the 2-year skills cycle. For designers, this may be through using a new or innovative design method. For builders, it may be using a new product or construction method.

LBPs will still carry out other activities they choose, but the time requirement for these will be cut in half.

Paul Hobbs, Registrar Building Practitioner Licensing, says the new scheme focuses on quality learning results rather than just compliance or points-gathering. It uses naturally-occurring evidence of learning on the job, not requiring LBPs to seek out relevant learning opportunities.

One of the big objectives behind the change making the learning material more accessible.  

LBPs will move into the new scheme on the date of their next 2-yearly skills maintenance anniversary after 2 November 2015.

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Stormwater conference coming

The first Asia Pacific Stormwater Conference is being held in Auckland on 20–22 May. 

The conference is being hosted by Water New Zealand, the non-profit body that represents and promotes organisations in New Zealand’s water industry.

The conference includes local and overseas speakers and a trade exhibition.

You can find more information here.

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New house condition

Construction problems in new houses in areas such as energy efficiency and weathertightness are the subject of a BRANZ research project.

BRANZ will be looking at up to 200 new houses to assess whether there are New Zealand Building Code compliance defects in areas such as energy efficiency, structure or weathertightness. This project aims to quantify the extent of any compliance issues, assess “quality” of construction and to better understand the problems builders face in producing high standard work.

The first findings have been published. A second report in 2015 will quantify the extent of issues and problems that were found.

The first report gives a preliminary assessment of workmanship and design issues, based on 38 pre-lining and 23 pre-purchase inspections. Three-quarters of the houses were found to have code con-compliance defects. In the area energy efficiency area, the inspections found that almost all houses had minor gaps or compressed insulation in places, and all houses lacked any insulation at corners of the walls.

Full details can be found in BRANZ Study Report 316(2014), available here.

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Up-Spec for performance improvements

BRANZ has a new resource that provides actual cost and return data for performance improvements for new New Zealand homes.

Up-spec provides specifics on resource savings and costs for higher performance homes in the areas of comfortable temperatures, energy efficiency and water management. Figures are available for nine climate zones: Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill.

For temperature, options considered are:

  • house orientation
  • ceiling insulation
  • wall insulation
  • windows
  • concrete slab floor.

For energy efficiency:

  • photovoltaics
  • appliances
  • lighting.

And for water management:

  • appliances
  • tapware
  • showerheads
  • toilets
  • greywater recycling
  • rainwater tanks.

The performance upgrades are based on independent research (available on the BRANZ website here) and are region specific where possible. Only the most cost-effective improvements have been selected, based on homes consented in 2012. Figures take inflation and returns into account. The information is based on the most recent information wherever possible and will be updated every 3 years. All figures are estimates and should be seen as starting points for discussions.

You can find more information here.

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Green Property Summit 2015

Registrations are open for the 5th Green Property Summit being held in Auckland in March.

A collaboration between Property Council New Zealand and the New Zealand Green Building Council, the one-day summit has performance as its 2015 theme.

Speakers include:

  • Jeffrey Holmes (Woods Bagot, New York)
  • Daniel Davis (Case, New York)
  • Nick Ebbs (Igloo Regeneration UK)
  • Romily Madew (GBC Australia)
  • Anthony De Francesco (Investment Property Databank)
  • John Dalzell (Waterfront Auckland).

The summit is being held in Auckland at the Crowne Plaza on Albert Street on 26 March 2015.

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Passive House Conference

The South Pacific Passive House Conference and Trade Show is being held in Auckland 14–15 February.

There will be international and local speakers. Bronwyn Barry, director of One Sky Homes and a member of Passive House California, will give a keynote presentation on “Alta California, Aotearoa and an Amazonian dream of Passive House”.

Other topics discussed include panellised prefabrication, lowest border of the thermal envelope, optimizing windows and airtightness.

The winners of the 1st South Pacific Passive House Awards will be announced on 15 February. Prizes will be awarded in categories for architectural merit and cost-effectiveness.

The venue is Unitec Mt Albert Campus, Building 1, corner Great North Road and Carrington Road, Auckland.

Find out more here.

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Growing demand for energy efficiency, sun

The 2014 results for an annual survey of homeowners show a big jump in demand for energy efficiency, more insulation and better orientation for sun.

The annual Homestar/realestate.co.nz survey reflects the opinions of almost 1,000 homeowners. People were asked what home features they think are important when purchasing a home.

Energy efficient features such as LED lighting and double glazing were rated important or very important by 72%, a massive jump from the 2013 figure of 49%.

The rating for a high level of insulation jumped to 90% from 82% last year (and 76% the year before).

Houses orientated to maximise the sun was rated ‘important’ or ‘very important’ by 91%, up from 86% last year.

Water saving features rated a lowly 37% by comparison, but even this is up from 29% last year.

Renewable energy such as photovoltaic panels or solar water heating, added to the survey for the first time in 2014, earned ‘important’ or ‘very important’ from 45% of respondents.

Find out more here.

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ENERGY STAR now covers windows

Specifying thermally efficient windows that will make homes warmer is now easier with the launch of ENERGY STAR-qualified windows.

Over 40% of the heat lost in a typical new home is lost through the windows, so improvements in glazing can make a big difference in a house.

ENERGY STAR-qualified windows perform better than standard aluminium-framed double glazing.

An ENERGY STAR window will typically have at least one or both of the following feature

  • double glazing (insulating glass units) and a frame with a plastic or resin thermal break in the centre of the aluminium joinery, or a frame that is made from an insulating material such as uPVC or wood. These are less likely to attract condensation and will lose less heat than windows with standard aluminium frames. Standard aluminium frames often attract condensation in winter, even with double glazing.
  • low-emissivity (low-E) glass as one pane of double glazing. Low-E glass lets light and heat in, while reflecting escaping heat back into the room.

ENERGY STAR qualified windows may also have:

  • spacers made of plastic or stainless steel (instead of aluminium) to separate the glass panes to reduce heat loss and condensation at the glass edge.
  • a gas such as argon between the glass layers. This acts as a better insulator than air, reducing heat loss.

EECA estimates ENERGY STAR windows will reduce heat loss by more than 18 percent compared with standard windows.

EECA developed ENERGY STAR-qualified windows in consultation with the Window Association of New Zealand (WANZ) and BRANZ to ensure a technically robust certification process.

BRANZ Senior Scientist John Burgess says it has been difficult for consumers to understand the technical information about windows. BRANZ research identified how higher-performing windows can be endorsed with ENERGY STAR.

WANZ Executive Director Stewart Knowles says the association welcomes the introduction of ENERGY STAR-qualified windows because ENERGY STAR is widely recognised as an independent mark of energy efficiency and will encourage homeowners to consider higher-performing windows when renovating or building a new home.

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Environmental product declaration programme launched

New Zealanders will now be able to find out more about the environmental impact of various building products.

Environmental product declarations (EPDs) are an independently-verified, science-based declaration of the environmental performance of materials or products.

The newly-launched Australasian Environmental Product Declaration (EPD®) programme helps construction product manufacturers in New Zealand and Australia develop EPDs.

The programme is a not-for-profit joint venture between the Life Cycle Association of New Zealand and the Australian Life Cycle Assessment Society.

Its launch in New Zealand has been supported by the BRANZ Building Research Levy.

Construction products with EPDs are now gaining credits in green building rating systems around the world.

Allied Concrete is the first New Zealand company to publish an EPD. Chris Munn, national technical manager, said: “For us, the EPD format was a transparent and smart way to present our product’s environmental profile.

“As a result of developing our EPD, we can encourage our customers to select different concretes based on environmental considerations as well as structural performance.”

The Australasian EPD® Programme is aligned with the International EPD® System, one of the world’s longest established and largest EPD programme operators.

The EPD programme was launched to the construction sector at the Building a Better New Zealand 2014 conference in Auckland in September.

 

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New building regulations

The Government has released new building regulations covering the consumer protection measures that come into force on 1 January 2015.


Available online at the New Zealand Legislation website, the regulations cover:

  •    residential building contracts
  •    disclosure information
  •    checklist
  •    implied terms.


The disclosure information (in Schedule 1 of the regulations) includes:

  •    information about the building contractor
  •    key contact person
  •    insurance policies
  •    information about any guarantees and warranties.

The checklist is given in Schedule 2. This must be given to clients if they ask for it, or if the work will cost $30,000 or more (including GST). The checklist is addressed to consumers and gives advice about project structure and management, dealing with building contractors, price and payments, resolving disputes, and other topics.

Schedule 3 outlines implied terms for residential building contracts. These cover topics such as who obtains building consents and code compliance certificates, variations, payments, dealing with subcontractors, dispute resolution and notices.

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More consumer protection coming

Significant new rules around residential building work come into effect from 1 January 2015.

New consumer protection measures that were outlined in the Building Amendment Act 2013 come into force from 1 January 2015.
The new legislation includes:

  • a requirement to have a written contract for building work over $30,000 (including GST)
  • a requirement to give customers a building checklist as well as information credentials – skills, qualifications, licensing status and so on – for work over $30,000 or if the client asks
  • an automatic 12-month defect repair period when builders will have to fix any defects the customer has pointed out
  • fines for not complying with the law.

One of the aims of the move is to take away the idea many people have that the building consent authorities (councils) are responsible for the quality of a building, and to place that responsibility more clearly with the builder.

It also gives consumers more information to help them choose a good builder. At the moment some people believe that builders doing poor quality work can remain in business simply by giving low quotes for work.

BRANZ will be explaining the new rules, and some other key changes facing the industry, in a seminar – ‘From She’ll Be Right to Build It Right’ – going to 28 centres from mid October to early December. Look for details soon on www.branz.co.nz

 

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Retirement village to see big energy savings

A Christchurch retirement village now under construction will use a new clean-burning wood-fuelled boiler that could save 50–70% on fuel costs compared to some traditional boilers. Read more.

Retirement villages are large users of energy, with 24 hour space heating requirements, and the latest generation of wood-fired central heating technology  offers potentially large operational cost savings to the sector.

The system to be installed in Nazareth Community of Care village in Christchurch is a fully automated ETA HACK 350kW wood chip boiler with a buffer tank and peak load boiler.

The project received funding from EECA’s technology demonstration programme.

The new boiler will be installed in 2015.

 

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Saving energy in office and retail buildings

An upcoming BRANZ seminar on the design and operation of low-energy non-residential buildings follows six years of research into the topic.

The Building Energy End-use Study (BEES) looked at hundreds of offices, shops and other non-residential buildings, examining energy and water use. The BEES seminar will provide information about:

  • opportunities for energy-efficient design in new builds
  • integrating passive solutions in building systems
  • components of energy use (HVAC, lighting etc)
  • targets for the design and operational energy use of the building
  • the importance of energy modelling
  • environmental conditions in non-residential buildings.

Seminar presenters are:

  • Lynda Amitrano, BRANZ Evaluations and Building Sustainability Manager
  • Andrew Pollard, BRANZ Building Physicist
  • Lee Bint, BRANZ Sustainable Building Scientist.

The seminar runs between 22 and 30 September, and will be held in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. For more information visit www.branz.co.nz.

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2014 Sustainable Housing Summit

Sustainable Housing Summits are being held in Auckland (25 June) and Christchurch (27 June). Housing affordability is one of the themes.

Speakers at both events include:

  • Lucinda Hartley, CEO, CoDesign Studio in Melbourne, an urban design consultancy that helps local communities plan and design projects to improve their neighbourhoods
  • Tommy Honey, Dean, Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design
  • Professor Paul Cooper, Director, University of Wollongong Sustainable Buildings Research Centre
  • Dave Strachan, Director, Strachan Group Architects Ltd
  • Michael Bilsborough, Associate Director – Architecture, Aecom Australia Pty Ltd.

For more details, check out www.nzgbc.org.nz

 

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Prefabrication

A new BRANZ study report looks at the use of prefabrication in buildings. It also quantifies the $5 billion potential for prefabrication work in New Zealand.

SR 312 (2014), Prefabrication and standardisation potential in buildings, looks at existing use and the potential benefits if uptake was greater.

The potential for further use of prefabrication and standardisation is analysed by building type and component. This finds that the amount of prefabrication could be increased to more than $5 billion per year, while $2.7 billion of standardisation could occur. These two figures are not additive, as they overlap, but this indicates that the overall S&P potential is somewhere between $5 billion and $7.7 billion.

The report is available for free download here.

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Rental housing WOF trial results in

The results of a ‘warrant of fitness’ field trial of 140 rental properties have been released.

The trial aimed to test whether draft WOF checklists and methodologies were practical for landlords, assessors and tenants. Home assessment experts visited more than 140 rental properties in Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin earlier this year. The trial involved councils, the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), New Zealand Green Building Council and the University of Otago, Wellington.

The trial tested a range of criteria that could potentially be included in a housing WOF. The checklist looked at 31 items from weathertightness and insulation to ventilation, lighting, heating, condition of appliances and general building safety. Both detached houses and apartments were included, construction ages ranged from 1880s to less than 10 years old. The average time taken to inspect each property was 51 minutes.

Some key findings:

  • Around 94% of the homes inspected in the field trial did not pass at least one checklist criteria, but the majority of houses ‘failed’ on only a handful of checklist items.
  • 36% of the homes would pass all of the draft WOF criteria with relatively minor fixes (around $50–$150 worth of materials/hardware).
  • 40% of houses did not pass the water temperature check.
  • 30% of bedrooms did not have a working smoke alarm within 3 metres of the bedroom.


The partners in the project aim to finalise checklists and methodologies, investigate steps for introducing a voluntary WOF scheme and continue discussions with central government on one WOF tool for New Zealand.

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Zero energy house

In Auckland a ‘zero energy house’ that incorporates a host of sustainable construction techniques has shown great performance in thermal comfort.

Temperatures inside last winter were significantly higher than outside – inside it was a comfortable 19.6° while the average outside temperature was 11.2°. There were also much lower temperature fluctuation inside, of just 9° compared to the outside variation of 17°.

These impressive results were achieved by heating the home passively with solar energy from the sun warming the concrete slab.

The house has a highly thermally-efficient building envelope with a double layer of insulation and high-performance glazing.

Measurements of water and energy use will be released as they become available. Read more.

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Updated picture of energy use

An updated database of New Zealand energy use is now available, covering households and other sectors and including renewables such as solar and geothermal.

EECA (The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) has updated the Energy End Use Database, giving breakdowns of energy use across the country. The database contains estimates of energy use by sector, technology, end use, and fuel type. The data is for calendar year 2012.


The interface allows a range of search options at different levels of detail. Regional and local area filters are currently being developed and will be made available in future.

The database will be useful to researchers, central and local government planners and the private sector. EECA uses the database in its own energy efficiency programmes.

A summary report can be downloaded as an Excel spreadsheet here.

The Energy End Use Database draws from sources that include MBIE's Energy in NZ and Statistics NZ's NZ Energy Use Survey.

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Solar water heating

A Consumer NZ report highlights some of the challenges facing solar water heating, but also points out where using solar makes sense.

Read more.

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Little Greenie

One of New Zealand’s most energy efficient houses has an annual water heating bill of just $41.

A Golden Bay house called Little Greenie is one of New Zealand’s most energy efficient houses. After it was built in 2008/09 it scored 9 out of 10 stars in a Home Energy Rating Report (HERS) from EECA, with a 10/10 score for water heating.

Among its design and construction features:

  • Polystyrene was placed under the whole floor and footings, creating a thermal break. No foundation or floor concrete touches the ground.
  • Overlapping layers of wool insulation give almost twice the thermal performance of standard house insulation: R 7.4 in the roof and R 5.1 in the walls.
  • Glazing in doors and windows is with argon-filled, thermally broken, Low-E insulated glazing units.
  • Underfloor heating comes from a solar water heating system.
  • The whole house is angled within 15º north for maximum exposure to the sun.
  • Half-adobe internal walls provide passive storage of heat.

You can read more about it here.

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Building a Better NZ September conference

An Auckland conference in September will look at policy, planning and design, construction, maintenance, refurbishment, reuse or deconstruction of buildings. Read more

The Building a Better NZ conference will bring together a wide range of industry stakeholders including researchers, industry leaders, policy makers, innovators, designers and manufacturers to focus on research findings and case studies of best practice.

Aligned strongly with the New Zealand Building Research Strategy, the conference will bring together local and international speakers to share their knowledge and insights on innovative, high performance and low impact approaches to developing, maintaining and retrofitting the built environment.

The conference will be held 3–5 September at the Rendezvous Grand Hotel in downtown Auckland.

You can read more about it here.

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BRANZ launches new maintenance tool

BRANZ has launched a new online tool that will help homeowners keep their homes in better condition and provide benefits for builders too.

The BRANZ Maintenance Schedule is a brand-new web-based tool that:

  • records in one place all the materials used in a building
  • gives homeowners a comprehensive maintenance guide
  • helps manage builders’ legal liability if anything goes wrong.

Enter the materials and finishes used and the tool automatically enters the maintenance required. A copy can be printed for clients, and another copy added to a builder’s records.

Lack of maintenance can bring expensive problems, and these can result in legal challenges. With a maintenance schedule, clients know how to keep their property in top condition and builders have an easy-access record, potentially saving time and money with warranty claims, or if an owner plans future extensions or modifications.

The tool may also help meet compliance with legal obligations as the government moves to require builders to give clients more information.

You can read more about it here.

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Changes to acceptable solutions and verification methods.

Changes to 28 acceptable solutions and 10 verification methods for showing Building Code compliance come into force from 1 January 2017.

There is a transition period: from 1 January–30 May 2017 you can use either the existing or the new acceptable solution or verification method. From 31 May the new documents must be used.

There is one exception: the transition period for D2/AS1 is extended to 6 August 2017. From 7 August 2017, only the Amendment 7 version of D2/AS1 can be used as an acceptable solution.

The proposed acceptable solutions E2/AS4 Torch-on Membrane Systems for Roofs and Decks and E3/AS2 Internal Wet Area Membranes are still being worked on and have not been published yet.

You can find more information here.