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Housing of the future

26 AUGUST 2004

Multi Million Research Consortium -To develop housing of the future

A $12 million research project to develop better, healthier, New Zealand housing and neighbourhoods has been launched by a consortium of some of the housing sector’s biggest names.

The Beacon Pathway project is to develop the most energy, water and resource efficient house possible, resulting in a design that is warm, healthy, efficient to build, affordable, sustainable and attractive.

It is hoped this will create the platform from which the next generation of New Zealand housing is developed.

The consortium behind the project - Beacon Pathway Ltd - is a joint venture currently involving Forest Research, Fletcher Building, the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ), and Waitakere City Council – each with a proven commitment to sustainable housing and a better built environment.

The project has received a research grant from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology worth $6 million over six years and this has been matched by investment from the consortium members.

“Making the vast majority of New Zealand homes more energy efficient and healthy is an ambitious task,” says Beacon Pathway’s Acting General Manager, Paul Minett, “but the capabilities and international connections of the four organisations give us every chance of success.”

Nationally, heating our homes consumes a significant amount of energy, yet too often houses are not warm enough because of poor design and inadequate insulation. This has an impact on personal health, with one recent study showing that improved insulation alone resulted in fewer sick days for household members.

Peter Benfell, Group Manager Investment Operations at the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, says, “New technologies that make our homes more sustainable create benefits for everyone. Healthier houses will use fewer resources such as water and energy and provide a more comfortable living environment at lower cost to the homeowner. In the process we may create new industries and jobs and, potentially, new export products.” This Consortium is the seventh in the Foundation’s Research Consortium programme and is another excellent example of collaboration between researchers and industry, public and private sector - leading to an increase in private sector investment into research, science and technology.

Design work is already underway on a demonstration home, called the NOW HOME to be built in Waitakere City. Design features include desirability, energy and water efficiency, and performance, while using off-the- shelf technologies and staying within an affordable budget. Construction is due to start in September.

The next challenge will be to apply the lessons learned from the NOW HOME to the retrofit market (existing houses) – and to the broader issues of neighbourhood design.

Forest Research is New Zealand’s largest biomaterials research organisation. New Zealand-based Fletcher Building manufactures and distributes building materials, as well as constructing residential and commercial buildings. BRANZ is the largest investor in New Zealand building research, and Waitakere City Council is a recognised leader as New Zealand’s first Eco City committed to promoting and developing a city that is sustainable.

Beacon Pathway Ltd aims to build partnerships with other organisations that have similar goals – in New Zealand and overseas, and is seeking interest from other large private and public organisations to join the consortium.

ENDS

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