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New Way Of Building In NZ Has Broken Ground In Raglan

31 July 2012

“New Way Of Building In New Zealand Has Broken Ground In Raglan”

This month, construction of one of the first Passive Houses in New Zealand began in Waitetuna (Raglan).

Waikato based couple, Casper Valentin and Ellen van der Knapp, have taken on the challenge to do something that hasn't been done before in New Zealand. Through their house-building project, they hope to trigger the public to think about the quality of New Zealand homes.

“We are amazed how many people live in unhealthy, uncomfortable homes and are putting up with cold and mould. We didn't want this type of environment in our new home, so we started a search on how we could do better,” Ellen explains.

In this search the couple came across a concept that ticked all their boxes. The concept is called a Passive House and originates from Germany.

“Warm in winter, cold in summer, fresh and healthy air year round, no mould, no damp, no drafts. A Passive House encompasses everything you should expect from a healthy home. Plus, our energy bill will only be much less of what is average for a New Zealand household,” Casper explains.

The concept of a Passive House is to build a house that retains heat and uses the passive heat generated by its occupants, appliances and sunlight so that there is almost no need for a heating system. The result is an incredibly comfortable and healthy home with very limited energy consumption.

In contrast with any 'green movement,' Passive House is a proven method. “We know exactly how much energy our house requires to maintain a comfortable temperature of around 20 degrees inside. The Passive House calculations that happens in the design phase, shows that our energy bill to heat the entire house – so not just one room- is expected to be under $200 per year,“ Casper says.

MOAA Architects of Hamilton have designed the house. Brooke Cholmondeley-Smith, director of MOAA Architects has even become a certified Passive House Designer, one of only a few in New Zealand. “We always take energy efficiency into account in our designs, but Passive House takes it a step further. There are certain performance criteria to be met and they definitely affect the design. Very exciting, it makes it one, large integrated project that both meets Passive House standards and what Casper and Ellen want from the house,” Brooke says.

Casper and Ellen are looking forward to moving in to their new home in December this year. “We hope that through this project we can contribute to a positive trend that is taking place in New Zealand; building more energy efficient, healthier homes and a low energy bill as a bonus for everyone.”

Updates and photos:

View FAQ's on
The concept of a Passive House is to build a house that retains heat and uses the passive heat generated inside the house by its occupants, cooking, appliances and sunlight so that there is almost no need for heat supply or a heating system.

By designing and building in accordance with the Passive House concept and best principles of building physics, we get a building that is warm, comfortable, healthy to live in and durable. By building a house as a Passive House you can almost eliminate the cost of heating.

The Passive House concept is a comprehensive approach to life cycle cost-efficient, high quality, healthy and sustainable construction. Passive Houses require superior design and components with respect to:
Design without thermal bridges
Air tightness (how non-drafty is the building structure)
Ventilation with heat recovery
Innovative heating technology

To realise an optimal interaction of all components, an energy balance of the building has to be worked out. And step by step any new design may be improved to meet Passive House standards.


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