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New Building Act can save the country millions


4 April 2005

New Building Act can save the country millions

New Zealand could be saved hundreds of millions of dollars in resource and health costs with the release of the most recent version of the Building Act in effect last week says BRANZ, the building industry’s leading research and testing provider.

BRANZ welcomes the new requirement that future building follows the principles of sustainable development, calling it a far-sighted inclusion.

Built Environment Manager at BRANZ, Chris Kane, says there is a bright future for those countries that embrace the concept of sustainable development. “It’s not about tree-hugging – far from it. It’s about ensuring we extract maximum benefit from both our scarce, and our widely available, resources. Improving resource usage of the existing housing stock of 1.2 million houses alone would save New Zealand householders about $410 million annually .”

The concept of sustainable development is often misunderstood. Essentially, it means that our generation’s activities and needs should not jeopardise those of future generations. BRANZ has actively promoted this for over ten years. In April, BRANZ will release an updated version of the Green Home Scheme design aide and rating tool which assists homeowners and designers to build more sustainable homes that are comfortable and cost effective.

The first version of the Green Home Scheme tool was released in 1997, and it remains the only NZ-specific method by which homes can be compared, and determine their contribution to sustainable development. Accredited assessors use it to determine the overall environmental performance of a completed house design, as well as provide design guidance for those starting the process.

It is possible to compare a well-performing house design to a conventional house in dollar terms. The Green Home Scheme rates houses mainly on their contribution to sustainable development – sorting them into four performance categories from Fair to Excellent. Most houses being built, and the vast majority of existing housing, do not even reach the bottom of this scale.

Kane says, “Home buyers don’t necessarily do the right homework to ensure their new purchase not only looks good, but uses energy and water sparingly while providing comfortable and healthy living. Such houses are much cheaper to run for the occupants, and also potentially offer vast savings at a national level.”


Standard of House Approximate power used:

A standard NZ Building Code compliant house

3000kW/hr per year - space heating*

2500 kW/hr per year - water heating*

A “Very Good” rated house on The Green Home Scheme, having:
- Much higher levels of thermal insulation
- Use of massive materials to store heat
- Double glazed windows
- Uses sun to assist water heating
- Water tank (reducing the need for main supplies)
- Typically close to public transport, shops & schools
- Good ventilation provided to high moisture areas
- The house will be “normal”- function & look like a standard home - & be comparable in cost
Approximate power used:

1110 kWh - space heating

1500 kWh - hot water heating

Homeowner Savings
- Two thirds of the electric space heating
- A little less than half on water heating
- $290 annual savings for water usage (based on Waitakere City Council’s charge rate, for a family of three)
- Gives an average direct homeowner savings of $625 per house saved each year OR $18.8 million for the 30,000 new houses which will be built in 2005
National Environmental Savings
- Approximately 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 annually (important to NZ’s role as a responsible nation under the Kyoto Protocol, which came into force world-wide in February) if all houses were upgraded

* based on BRANZ Ltd’s Household Energy End-use Project (HEEP) data

NB An example of a “Very Good” rated home is being built by Beacon Pathway Ltd in Auckland – the first of many NOW Homes. For more information visit


NOTE: Homeowners can call BRANZ on 0900 5 90 90 for practical information on sustainable development, insulation and ventilation. Calls cost $1.99/min +GST.

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