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Further Measures Needed To Make Kiwi Homes Healthy In The Wake Of COVID-19 - Oculus

Building science and architectural engineering company Oculus says strong measures by the government are needed now to improve the health of New Zealand’s homes in the wake of COVID-19.

The company says a new report and recommendations by the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) re-opens the conversation on the issue of cold, damp homes and their impact on respiratory illnesses and viruses, but there is more that could be done.

The NZGBC report - A Green Recovery recommends improving 120,000 homes to a healthy standard which would in turn provide economic stimulus. There is concern however, that the figure is too low, when 600,000 Kiwi homes need to be made healthier, Oculus says. Director Shawn McIsaac says New Zealand houses are well below other countries when it comes to combating cold and damp, and keeping humidity at acceptable levels.

“If we follow the trends of previous years, this year 90,000 people will be admitted to hospital and more than 3,000 people will die, as a result of respiratory illness in New Zealand,” he said.

“Through the response to COVID the Government has shown it cares about our health. This would be an excellent measure to both improve our health and also provide the investment to restart our economy and give people skills and employment.”

McIsaac said there has been discussion on improving and upgrading the housing stock at large for the better part of three decades, but 600,000 homes are still without insulation.

“We need a bold response from the government to put an end to our history of cold, mouldy, expensive housing and to dramatically expand the eligibility criteria for subsidised insulation, heating and ventilation systems to include all Kiwis because we all deserve a home that is affordable to heat,” he said.

McIsaac said Oculus believes housing is public health care infrastructure, and the first line of defence in keeping people out of the hospital and in preventing deaths from respiratory illnesses. While the NZGBC proposal focuses on upgrades that may offer some benefit, they would need to be more rigorous to solve the problem, he said. The Beacon Pathway approach of 10 years ago outlined the measures required to make our homes warm and dry.

“The upgrade work is a health measure so any beneficial product or service would be eligible for an incentive,” McIsaac said.

“The benefit to cost ratios are very high, so removing any barriers for homeowners and landlords should be encouraged. There is room here to look at multiple different delivery pathways”.

Shawn McIsaac

Oculus also supports the premise of disclosing the healthy home features of a house, but believes certification or ratings schemes can be a costly barrier to accomplishing this. A disclosure statement as part of a sale and purchase agreement, such as is already used in the rental sector, would serve much the same function without having to monitor and update a scheme or pay fees to a private entity, McIsaac said.

“Overseas experience suggests a certification process would result in higher sales prices and potentially additional investment. New Zealand has some of the most unaffordable housing in the OECD already”.

ABOUT OCULUS

Founded in 2018, Oculus is a New Zealand architectural engineering firm based in Auckland, specialising in building enclosure design. With a belief that New Zealand can be a world leader in building design, Oculus’s mission is to use building science to improve the quality of life for New Zealanders, especially in mitigating respiratory illness from unhealthy living spaces. Oculus’s team of seasoned engineers, architects, drafters, and tradespeople have unparalleled expertise and knowledge of how to control temperature, mould, noise, fire, air pollution and solar radiation in New Zealand buildings, offices and homes.

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