Making New Zealand homes healthier

Making New Zealand homes healthier
A Superhome is primarily about building green and energy efficient - but also about good design and resilience.

New Zealand has an excess winter mortality rate of 1600 people, which is linked to substandard housing.
Put simply, 1600 more people die each winter and other OECD countries either do not have ‘excess winter mortality’ or it is much less. That statistic was shared at the World Health Organisation’s – Housing and Health Guidelines launch recently in Wellington.
While the road toll is widely reported, much less is said or understood about the deaths and illness due to unhealthy housing.
Research by University of Otago has shown that a third of New Zealand seven-year-olds have asthma and New Zealand has the highest death by asthma rate in the world.
Each year, Kiwi kids spend 28,000 nights in hospital at an annual cost of $154 million.
The fact is that New Zealand’s building code trails the rest of the developed world by 20 years with almost all homes continuing to be built to minimum code standards.
“New Zealanders don’t seem to understand that the current code shouldn’t be the target and they need to see the value of doing better”, says Bob Burnett, architectural designer and co-founder of the Superhome movement.
“People like to go with the cheapest option with everything except cars and electronics it seems. “With houses it’s a race to the bottom with the cheapest price winning. Performance, and health isn’t considered.”
Bob says the Superhome movement is about lifting the minimum standard for all homes “in the absence of a sensible building code”.
“Rating systems don’t have enough impact with less than 1 in 1000 homes rated.”
Bob explains that it is financially positive to do a better quality build, for its owners and their on-going equity in the property.

Making New Zealand homes healthier
Cantabrians will have the opportunity of seeing, touching and feeling the warmth of homes built to the Superhome standard during the Movement’s annual tour.

“Building a Superhome will actually be better for the owner’s financial bottom-line because spending 2% more on a build can save 50% on your power bill, or spending 10% more can result in no power bill. People talk about the triple bottom line-financial sustainability, social sustainability and environmental sustainability. People need to think about the bigger picture and the operational cost as well as the capital cost.”
A Superhome is primarily about building green and energy efficient – but that is not all.
It’s also about good design and resilience, which Bob says is the new sustainability.
“We’re talking about resilience to natural events such as earthquakes, storms and floods and about longevity, durability and weather tightness.
“The other piece – last but not least is design. Is the house well designed, is it going to have optimal functionality, is it going to be delightful and a place that is enjoyable to live?”
Late July this year, Cantabrians will have the opportunity of seeing, touching and feeling the warmth of homes built to the Superhome standard during the Movement’s annual tour.
Held for the last three years, a record 10,000 people attended the tours last year visiting 12 homes over three weekends.
“The tours are really popular and people love going into the homes on a cold winters day, seeing how warm the house is, asking what the power bill is and who the designer and builder was and what it cost.”
Consumer and trade awareness is a key objective of the popular tours.
“We’re getting in front of people, influencing their decision making and educating them about the benefits of building well above building code minimum.
We want to educate consumers on ways to achieve better homes, and why it is beneficial to their health, livelihoods, and the economic, social, and environmental future of the communities we live in.”
This year the tours will be done a little bit differently, with two or three tours over the course of the year, rather than one big tour.In addition to the popular physical tours, there will be the ability to undertake a virtual tour of the home from your own computer.
“People can choose to just take a virtual tour, the physical tour or both. A visitor will be able to take the virtual tour, click on some element of the house and get more information about the details and materials used— augmented reality.”
For more information about past and upcoming tours of Superhomes Bob advises people to visit New Zealand’s first 10-star Superhome is also open the first Saturday of each month for a free tour and presentation.
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