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Research consortium to develop future housing

Multi-million dollar research consortium to develop future housing

The nationally trailblazing Now Home project took its first step towards construction today (9th December) with a ground turning ceremony in New Lynn, Waitakere City.

The project is focussed on developing an affordable house that is as energy, water and resource efficient as possible using technologies, systems and materials available today.

It will demonstrate the huge advances in running costs, resource efficiency and health promoting environments that can be achieved within a modern, attractive, sustainable design.

The house will reduce its energy and water needs – and thus the cost to run it. Energy costs are reduced significantly through: insulation; natural heat gain, efficient ventilation and energy efficient appliances and lighting. Materials will also be made from renewable sources requiring a minimum energy input to their manufacture.

Water is managed through a mixture of efficient plumbing systems and fittings, and the use of rain water and grey-water for non-drinking purposes.

The resulting warm dry environment within the house will also be inherently healthier than in many houses.

The ground turning ceremony was carried out by Waitakere Deputy Mayor Carolynne Stone and Beacon Pathway Consortium Chairman Andrew Reding.

The Beacon Pathway Consortium comprises Waitakere City Council, Fletcher Building, Forest Research, and the Building Research Association of New Zealand. This group is funding the $12 million six-year research project that is developing the Now Home project, 50-50 with the Foundation for Research, Science & Technology.

The Now Home is being developed as a practical example of what is achievable now, to lead New Zealand to a situation where the great majority of New Zealand homes embody a high level of sustainability by 2012.

Achieving this objective will not only have benefits to the home occupiers but will have significant economic value to New Zealand as a whole. Every healthy living environment helps to reduce the cost on the national health system: every reduction in energy and water demand helps in the national management of both, hopefully delaying the need for massive new infrastructure like water supply dams and new power stations.

Each of the partners has a proven commitment to sustainable housing and a better built environment. The Consortium provides an excellent example of collaboration between local government, researchers and industry and between the public and private sectors.

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.

Other stakeholders include the EcoMatters Trust, which is a neighbour and project collaborator and the Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority, which has contributed to developing the design of the house and assisted with the research bid.

The Now Home Project Team has had to use materials that are energy and resource efficient, are available now, easy to locate and within a total budget of $180,000. It is hoped that the Home will create the platform from which the next generation of New Zealand housing is developed.

The Now Home is not a “Show Home” but more of a research home that will house a family for two years and monitored for its performance. It will be open to the public from time to time, but on a very limited basis because of the need to preserve the integrity of the research project and to respect the privacy of its tenants. However, the Consortium will ensure that information about the Home and its performance will be made available through a variety of media – including virtual tours of the Home.

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.

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.

For more information www.nowhome.co.nz

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