Bringing a Swiss approach to building

Bringing a Swiss approach to building
The Biosolar home uses some clever, yet low-tech systems to harness solar energy, used for heating the home’s air and water.

Swiss-born Andy Steinemann is proud to call New Zealand home, having first set foot on New Zealand soil in 1992 and taking up citizenship in 2003. The Carterton-based carpenter says New Zealand has something very special about it and he is committed to living here long-term.
“I always knew that I wanted to be self-employed and after doing my carpentry qualifications in Switzerland and then spending a decade building homes there I could see that there could be a future in bringing those building methods and my skills here,” Andy says.
Once he had gained his carpentry tickets Andy subsequently went on to acquire quantity surveying, project management and drafting credentials, skills that he employs these days on his building projects. In Switzerland, pre-fabrication of walls, floors and ceilings – where the panels are fully ventilated and lined – is common.
“I hoped to bring something new to the building industry here by constructing using these traditional methods. There are so many benefits that come from building this way including the time it takes to close the home in against the elements.”
Unlike systems here, which usually see prefabricated framing arrive on the building site, Andy uses a sophisticated 3D drafting system, called CADwork, to draw up the entire house.
The programme allows sections to be pulled off, replaced, changed in size and detailing, before the final design is settled.
It shifts the bulk of work time from on-site to Andy’s office and means that by the time construction gets underway the construction plan ahead is certain.
Recently Andy had the experience of building a home following these construction processes for a German couple living in the district. The Biosolar house, was a collaboration between the owners, Thomas Grasenack and Christine Voelke, German company Biosolar and Andy.
Initially Thomas and Christine wanted to import a solar house complete from Germany but it wasn’t possible to bring all the timber into New Zealand.
This is where Andy’s skill-set, along with use of the CADwork programme moved the project forward, transforming the floor-plan the couple had drawn into a full set of working drawings.
These were sent to Germany to be sectioned off into ‘jigsaw’ like designs which were then built here.
“I can’t stress enough just how supportive Carterton District Council were. They could see this completely new approach to building could invoke interest in this type of construction method.”

Bringing a Swiss approach to building
The Biosolar house, was a collaboration between the owners, Thomas Grasenack and Christine Voelke, German company Biosolar and Steinemann Construction.

Structural timber used was NZ-sourced Douglas Fir from Taranaki. Gib board was not used as lining, rather a cellules jib fibre board. Flooring came from Germany.
“When I have contacted trade sales reps on-line here it has been great to discover there is a far wider range of building materials now available. This leads to building in new ways here.”
To give a sense of the speed of the build, Andy says it took one week to go from foundations to completely closed in. “You can image how much better this is when you’re dealing with the weather.”
Bringing a Swiss approach to building
Some clever, yet low-tech systems are used to harness solar energy, used for heating the home’s air and water. This has been achieved by literally building a house inside a house, with space for air to move through convection and diffusion in the cavity between the two structures.
The cavity receives warmed air from an open space between the roof and ceiling connected to a sunroom at ground level. Extensive use of glass also heats up the home which has the appearance at one end of a greenhouse.
“It’s a really well thought-through floor plan and its loftiness creates a sense of space beyond its actual square metres.” Andy is happy to discuss the Biosolar home he built with those contemplating a radical new approach to building. “I see so many benefits from designing and building this way.”
Andy offers three streams of services, from design, planning and construction, insulation and vapour barriers consultation and consulting for DIY customers.
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