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Raising insulation standards long overdue

Tuesday 30 October 2007

Raising insulation standards long overdue

The new minimum standards for insulation in the Building Code are a welcome addition to environmental health and energy efficiency, according to University of Otago researcher Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman.

“The average life of a New Zealand house is 90 years and that’s a long time for successive families in uninsulated houses to be cold, especially as the price of energy will continue to rise.

“We spend at least 75 per cent of our time at home and, until now, the standards really have been woefully inadequate compared to standards in other temperate countries. The new insulation regulations are timely. It’s in all our interests to have our homes warmer, healthier and better at conserving energy. It’s also important for climate change. Insulating houses is a highly cost-effective measure for reducing carbon emissions.”

Professor Howden-Chapman says the community studies carried out by her Housing and Health Programme He Kainga Oranga team have shown that insulating houses to even minimum standards pays multiple dividends.

The team has undertaken two major studies, the Housing, Insulation and Health Study and the Housing, Heating and Health Study.

“In our studies, insulated houses were shown to use about a fifth less energy than uninsulated houses. People felt in better health and had half the number of respiratory symptoms. Children in insulated houses had half the number of days off school and, overall, there were fewer admissions to hospital for respiratory conditions.

“I would expect that these new building standards will make an even greater difference to people.”

Professor Howden-Chapman says that, because the new standards apply only to new buildings, they will initially benefit only new home buyers.

“It will take some time for the benefits to flow on to the third of householders who rent. Tenants usually rent older houses. There is still a challenge to increase the energy efficiency of existing houses, particularly through encouraging landlords to insulate their rental properties.”

ENDS

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