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Time to make our Homes Healthier

Asthma and Respiratory Foundation
Media release for immediate use

Time to make our Homes Healthier

1 December, 2008

The Government needs to set up an energy efficiency type rating system immediately to help prospective home buyers and tenants know how healthy a dwelling is before they move in.

In making this statement today the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation’s Executive Director, Jane Patterson, noted how the home environment has a significant impact on respiratory health.

Jane’s statement comes hard on the heels on the release of a New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development (NZBCSD) Housing Survey. About 3500 Kiwis were asked about their experiences with housing and to what extent they would support a mandatory energy efficiency type rating system and other related policies. About 59 percent of respondents either strongly agreed or agreed to back a rating system. The Foundation says such a system would encourage vendors and landlords to improve the insulation and heating in their dwellings to compete on the housing market.

“Parliament resumes next week and the new Cabinet is up and running, so we urge that something’s done very soon,” Jane says.

At the moment when you buy a home you can get a building report that may tell you about, for example, sunlight hours and insulation, but you don’t get an overall energy efficiency and heat rating. With rented properties there’s next to nothing to go on.

“The Foundation has been calling for a rating scheme and the Business Council for Sustainable Development survey results provide evidence to back up the arguments of everyone who wants to stop talking and do some things about New Zealand’s cold and damp housing stock, “ Jane says.

The average New Zealand house is “scarily cold”, badly insulated, has huge expanses of single-glazed glass, and a nightmare to heat. In terms of energy efficient homes we are not very far along. It’s pretty much where the Scandinavians were in the 1960s.”

Prof Robert Vale, Victoria University (NZBCSD report ‘Better performing homes for New Zealanders: Making it Happen’).

An existing energy rating put on houses, the Housing Energy Efficiency Scheme (HERS) would provide a starting point for creating a new system; the wheel does not have to be re-invented.

The NZCSB noted that an effective system of making our homes warmer and dryer, and more water and energy efficient would:

• Avoid sending 50 people a day to hospital with respiratory illnesses (saving $54 million a year)
• Cut sick days off work by 180,000 a year (lifting production by $17 million a year)
• Cut household power bills by $475 million a year by using a combination of insulation and double glazing
• Stop households wasting enough water a year to fill 9,200 Olympic swimming pools.


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