Making high-performance houses more accessible

Making high-performance houses more accessible
Salmond Architecture’s portfolio includes residential and commercial architecture with a focus on high-performance, sustainability and energy efficiency.

Warm, comfortable, energy-efficient homes should be the norm, not the exception, in the opinion of architect Anne Salmond.
Yet she frequently sees what a revelation it is to many New Zealanders to encounter a high-performing home.
“When people walk into one of our homes, they can’t believe the heating isn’t on. They don’t realize how much more comfortable a well designed and constructed house can be.”
Based in Wanaka, Salmond Architecture’s portfolio includes residential and commercial architecture with a focus on high-performance, sustainability and energy efficiency.
These design principles also inform Anne’s subsidiary operation, High Performance Houses. This arm of her business specialises in versatile modular homes using modern building technologies.
Her focus on high performance has led her to develop close working relationships with builders, suppliers and consultants who share her commitment to delivering a quality product.
Anne’s passion for accessible high-performance housing led her to become part of the Superhome movement that arose in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes.
The movement was founded by a fellow architect, Bob Burnett, who saw the rebuild as a missed opportunity to raise the standard of Christchurch’s housing stock.
As well as lobbying for healthier, more energy-efficient homes, the organization offers Superhome tours and other resources for consumers.
 

Making high-performance houses more accessible

Anne believes our tolerance for cold, damp houses – the “put on another jersey” mentality – must change, given the well-proven link between chronic health and poor-quality housing.
In her opinion, this paradigm shift will require legislative change. “Having people like me design one better per-forming house at a time isn’t enough. This has to go beyond the early adaptors.”
She believes housing must be made to pass a certain standard, and points out that we already have a well designed system for testing how warm, dry and healthy a home is – the Green Building Council’s Homestar rating.

She’s confident we can raise the standard whilst remaining economically viable.
“Auckland Council has done a lot of work to find the sweet spot between affordability and perfomance.
“The research suggests that houses should meet a Homestar rating of six stars or higher, but New Zealand still builds new houses with a rating of four stars.”
Salmond Architecture has been working with a Christchurch factory, Concision, with the goal of producing affordable high-performance houses.
She’s aiming to get the delivery time on these modular home down to three months – from con-sent, to handing over the keys.
“My focus in the coming years is to make high-performing, comfortable, healthy homes available to people on average incomes, not just the top ten to fifteen percent of the market.”
Anne’s system uses a range of modular pavilions that can be linked together in versatile combinations. “It’s like a sophisticated version of building with Duplo,” she explains.
“The modular nature of the system means that it’s really responsive to the client’s needs. “They might start with a single pavilion with one or two bedrooms and live in that for five years before adding on to accommodate a growing family,” she says.
While many people imagine that a modular housing system will come with a built-in uniformity, Anne says this isn’t the case.
Clients can combine three different pavilion widths, three different roof pitches and a wide variety of lightweight cladding options, including cedar, corrugated steel and weatherboard.
This not only enables unique new builds, but also makes the system viable when building on to existing homes, or when a certain style of house is required to blend in with an existing subdivision.
While the material cost of high-performing prefabricated building can be higher than conventional approaches, Anne says this is balanced out by the time saved during off-site construction.
Long term, the returns continue to deliver – not only in improvements to health and comfort, but also financially.
“When people see their power bill drop to a quarter of what they used to pay, that’s very satisfying.”
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