Terms, words and abbreviations used throughout the site.

AC – alternating current. Household electricity grid supply in New Zealand is AC, and therefore most household appliances work on AC. See also DC

Access point – a place where access may be made to a discharge pipe for inspection, cleaning or maintenance

Argon –  a gas used between the glass panes in some insulating glass units

AS – Australian standard

AS/NZS – Joint Australian and New Zealand Standard

Backflow – the unplanned reversal of flow of water (or water and contaminants) into the water supply system
BCA – building consent authority – an organisation that can issue building consents, inspect construction and certify completion of building work. All territorial authorities (city and district councils) are accredited as building consent authorities

Bio-polymers – polymers from wood, cotton, horn (hardened protein) and raw rubber

Blackwater – wastewater from toilets and urinals

BIPV – Building-integrated photovoltaics. These photovoltaic materials are built into conventional building elements such as roof tiles or skylights

Carbon budget – a carbon budget for a New Zealand building estimates the volume of emissions that a new building can be responsible for while still moving towards New Zealand’s 2050 net-zero carbon goal. Most new buildings today are considerably over-budget

Carbon footprint – the sum of greenhouse gas emissions and removals in a product system, expressed as CO2 equivalent and based on a life cycle assessment (ISO, 2013)

Clean wind – wind which blows consistently from one direction without turbulence

CCA – copper, chrome and arsenate timber preservative

CFL – compact fluorescent lamp. These use less energy than incandescent lamps but more than LED lamps

Closed loop solar water heating system – a heat transfer fluid absorbs heat in the solar panels and carries it to the storage cylinder, where the heat is transferred to the water through a heat exchanger

CO2 – carbon dioxide

CodeMark certification – building products and methods that have obtained a CodeMark certificate must be accepted by building consent authorities as being Building Code-compliant, if the product/method is being used according to the certificate and its instructions.

Coefficient of performance (CoP) – energy efficiency measure for heat pumps in heating mode. The ratio of heating capacity to the electrical power input

Construction R-value – the combination of the R-values of the individual components of a building element less the effect of any thermal bridging of the framing.
 In many cases the construction R-value will be different to the R-value of the insulation product alone

Continuous flow water heaters – water is only heated at the time hot water is required

Convection heating – form of heating which warms the air (contrast with radiant heating, below)

CSIRO – (Australian) Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

CuAz – copper azole timber preservative

DC – direct current, an electric current which flows in only one direction. Photovoltaic cells produce DC electricity, and battery banks that store electricity from small generating units also work on DC. See also AC

Deconstruction – the process of disassembling a building by removing materials for reuse and recycling

Discharge stack – a discharge pipe that has one or more connections and is vented at one end via a discharge vent stack.

Drumminess– Separation of layers in cement or tiled work.

EECA – Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, the government agency that encourages sustainable energy use in New Zealand

EIFS – Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems. This is a wall cladding system where polystyrene sheets are typically plastered with a reinforced polymer modified cement-based plaster and then painted.

Embodied energy – the total energy required for the extraction, processing, manufacture and delivery of building materials/products to the building site, the construction process, construction waste disposal, maintenance and refurbishment throughout the building’s life and disposal at the end of the building’s life

Energy Efficiency Ratio – energy efficiency measure of heat pumps in cooling mode. The ratio of cooling capacity to the electrical power input

Environmental product declaration –  an independently-verified, science-based declaration of environmental performance of a materials or product for all or part of its life cycle

EPS – expanded polystyrene sheet. Used as underfloor insulation and in other building products such as structural insulated panels (SIPs)

Evacuated glass tube solar panels
– made up of a number of glass tubes, each with a vacuum. Inside the vacuum a plate (often made of copper) absorbs heat. A tube, cylinder or pipe connected to the absorber plate contains water or some other fluid such as glycol which absorbs heat and carries it to the water in the storage cylinder

Evaporative coolers – use a fan to move hot, dry air through a wet filter. They add moisture to the air, and the air temperature drops as warmth is used to evaporate the moisture. Evaporative coolers are only efficient in dry air

First flush diverter – a device which directs the first amount of rain (which washes dust and leaves off a roof) away from a rainwater collection tank

Flat plate solar panels – the most commonly used solar collectors, they have a metal plate (often copper, though sometimes aluminium) to absorb heat

Flexible polypropylene alloy (FPA) – an alloy of ethylene propylene rubber used for roofing applications

Fluorescent lamps – provide light by causing a phosphor coating on the inside of the glass to glow. They are energy efficient, using as little as 20% of the energy to provide the same light as an incandescent lamp, and last longer than incandescent lamps

Foul water – the discharge from any sanitary fixture or sanitary appliance

FSC – Forest Stewardship Council, an international non-profit organisation that promotes sustainable forest management through a timber certification scheme
Greenhouse gases (GHG) – gases in the atmosphere that trap heat, acting like a greenhouse and affecting the climate. GHGs include carbon dioxide (CO₂), methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and chlorofluorocarbons. Some are much more harmful than others

Green Star – a voluntary environmental rating tool for buildings. The New Zealand version is run by the New Zealand Green Building Council

Greywater –  wastewater from baths, showers and hand basins; may also include wastewater from laundries

Halogen lamps – a type of incandescent lamp made of quartz that uses halogen gas to extend the life of the tungsten filament. They are not very efficient – LEDs use about 75% less energy than halogen lamps and last 5 to 10 times longer

Heat recovery systems – a heat exchanger transfers heat from warm room air which is being discharged to cooler fresh air being brought in

HEEP – Household Energy End-use Project, a research project conducted by BRANZ which measured energy use by New Zealand households

HEPA – A ‘high-efficiency particulate air’ filter that traps small particles and is commonly found in good commercial or domestic vacuum cleaners. These are not sufficient for extracting hazardous dusts

Homestar – an independent rating tool, run by the New Zealand Green Building Council, that measures the health, warmth and efficiency of New Zealand houses on a scale from 6 to 10

Hydronic heaters – a heating system that uses circulating hot water

IGU – insulating glass unit (double or triple glazing)

Illuminance – the brightness of light. Technically, it is the luminous flux density at a surface, expressed as lumens per square metre (lm/m2) or lux

Incandescent lamps – lamps which produce heat as well as light, and are thus a much less efficient form of lighting than, for example, LED lamps

Impervious floor covering – material that does not permit the passage of water.

Inverters – convert DC electricity to AC electricity

IOS – International Organization for Standardization, the body that develops and publishes international standards

IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body that assesses the science around climate change

Laminated glass – two sheets of glass bonded together with a thin plastic layer between

LEDs – light emitting diodes. Highly efficient and long-lasting form of lighting

LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an international green building rating and certification scheme

Legionella – bacteria that can grow in water heaters and plumbing systems and can cause health problems.

Life cycle assessment – systematic means of considering the impact of a material or component over its life, from extraction to processing/manufacturing to construction/installation to use to eventual disposal

LIM – Land Information Memorandum, a document or documents containing information about a particular property, available from the local territorial authority

LOSP –  Light Organic Solvent Preservatives; insecticides and fungicides in a spirit-based carrier for treating timber

Low-E glass – glazing with a thin transparent low emissivity coating which reduces heat loss

l/s – litres per second

Lux – a measure of the brightness of light, given as lumens per square metre (lm/m2). Moonlight may be around 0.3 lux and a bright daytime sky around 30,000 lux. Lux can be measured with a handheld light meter

MDF – medium density fibreboard, a compressed engineered wood product

MEPS – Minimum Energy Performance Standards, which set minimum energy efficiency requirements for many types of home appliance

Micro-hydro systems  – use flowing water from a stream or spring to turn a water turbine that generates electricity

MJ/kg – a measure of embodied energy based on the weight of the material

m/s – metres per second

Mt – megatonnes

Net-zero carbon construction – when the human-caused emissions in construction are reduced to as close to zero as possible. Remaining emissions can be offset with carbon removed from the atmosphere, for example by planting forests

NIWA – National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research

NZBC – New Zealand Building Code

NZECP – New Zealand Electrical Code of Practice

NZS – New Zealand Standards

Open loop solar water heating system –  the water that’s being heated for consumption runs through the solar panels

Passive design – design which uses natural daylighting, ventilation, and the sun’s warmth rather than relying on artificial lighting, or active ventilation and heating

PCBU – a ‘person conducting a business or under/and Safety at Work Act.

PEFC – Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, an international non-profit organisation that promotes sustainable forest management through a timber certification scheme

Photovoltaic systems –  absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. They can be used as small-scale electricity generators that partially replace the mains supply

Pisé – rammed earth construction, where the earth is progressively compacted into removable formwork

Polybutylene – a plastic used for piping

Polycarbonate – a plastic used for translucent wall and roof cladding products

Polyeolefin – a plastic used in the manufacture of synthetic wall underlays or building wraps.

Potable water – water treated to a drinkable quality

Primary treatment – a minimal level of treatment involving separation of solids and anaerobic action only

Producer statement – a document from an expert often used to support a building consent application. These documents are accepted at a building consent authority’s discretion and have no status in the Building Act.

PVC – plasticised polyvinyl chloride, a plastic typically used for flooring

Radiant heating – form of heating where the people and objects in front of the heater are warmed, rather than the air (contrast with convection heating, above)

RAPS – remote area power systems

Relative Humidity (RH) – the percentage of water vapour in the air at a specific temperature compared to the maximum amount that the air could hold at that temperature

R-value – a measure of the thermal resistance of a building material, component or element such as a wall or roof

REBRI – Resource Efficiency in the Building and Related Industries. A partnership which promotes, advocates, and assists resource efficiency measures in the building and related industries

Renewable energy – energy derived from the sun, wind, biomass and other renewable sources, rather than from fossil fuels

Resilient sheet flooring –  thin sheets or tiles which are applied directly to a flat floor surface, such as vinyl, linoleum, synthetic rubber and recycled rubber

Secondary treatment – a higher level of treatment that involves aerobic action to produce effluent suitable for some irrigation situations

SIPs – structural insulated panels. These lightweight sandwich panels are typically made up of two high-density face layers bonded to a low-density insulating core

Solvents – organic chemicals typically used to dissolve or disperse other substances. They readily evaporate in the air at normal temperatures and can be hazardous to health.

Stachybotrys – a variety of blackish mould that grows on materials containing cellulose which can be harmful to health

Substrate – An underlying layer, such as the fibre-cement sheeting under a waterproof membrane

Sustainability – meeting the present needs without comprising future needs, i.e. it will not run out or harm the environment in the future

Thermally-broken aluminium – a plastic insert with higher thermal performance separates two sections of aluminium. Used in some window frames

Thermal envelope – the thermal barrier between the heated spaces in a home and the outside. Usually bounded by external walls and windows, the insulated ceiling or roof and the floor, but typically excludes the garage

uPVC – unplasticised polyvinyl chloride, a plastic  typically used for window frames, pipework, cladding, guttering and downpipes

VOC – volatile organic compound. VOCs are organic chemicals that are given off as gases to surrounding air from some solids and liquids. They are found in some paints and coatings and other materials. Some VOCs are harmful to health

VUW – Victoria University of Wellington

Wastewater fixtures are all sanitary fixtures or appliances that receive wastewater and are not soil fixtures

Water head – the drop in height from the point where water flows into an inlet pipe until it reaches a generator turbine

Watts peak (Wp) – the power output generated by a photovoltaic module under standardised test conditions

WEERS – Window Energy Efficiency Rating Scheme, a 6-star programme assessing window performance

Wetback – water from a hot water cylinder passes through a domestic heater (such as a wood burner) and back to the cylinder

Wp – watts peak power

XPS – extruded polystyrene sheet. Used as underfloor insulation and in other building products such as structural insulated panels (SIPs)