Aiming for zero energy

ARTIST'S IMPRESSION: The Zero Energy House is realised.
ARTIST'S IMPRESSION: The Zero Energy House is realised.

Heaters, fans and cost-heavy appliances will be redundant in New Zealand's first Zero Energy House.

But it is the health benefits of living in an environmentally conscious and resource efficient home that made the decision to go green easy for Pt Chevalier residents Jo Woods and Shay Brazier.

The couple returned from living abroad in the United Kingdom and was looking for a warm place to call home, Miss Woods says.

HAPPY HOME: Jo Woods and Shay Brazier are building the first Zero Energy House in the country and want to see more people take the same route as them.
HAPPY HOME: Jo Woods and Shay Brazier are building the first Zero Energy House in the country and want to see more people take the same route as them.

"After living in the UK you get used to warm houses and we couldn't find anything like that. So we started looking for sections to build with the idea of building something warm and energy efficient."

Miss Woods and Mr Brazier bought their 400 square metre site around three years ago and have spent the past year constructing their dream home.

Mr Brazier says the Zero Energy House will be a healthier and more comfortable home that is cheaper to run.

"It's going to be insulated to a level where there will be no heaters required," he says. "It's 50 per cent above the New Zealand building code's minimum insultation requirement which means we've got much thicker insulation. But that code is a minimum standard, we've gone above that, so we don't need to heat it to make it more comfortable."

The World Health Organisation did a study on the healthiest environment for people to be in which was 18 to 24 degrees, Mr Brazier says.

"If it's too cold you get mould and dampness which is linked with all sorts of respiratory diseases.

"You can sort that out with heaters but that costs so for people who don't have a lot of money it's common because they can't afford to heat their homes."

A BRANZ study says the average Auckland home uses 7970 kilowatts of electricity a year and at the 2010 rate of 25.5c per kilowatt that means an annual cost of more than $2000.

Miss Woods and Mr Brazier plan to pay nothing after their upfront accommodation costs.

Their house will generate energy through the first roof-integrated solar panels of its kind in the country and will only produce as much energy as consumed.

It will rely on a connection to the electricity grid but will work in reverse when there is surplus energy, resulting in a zero energy balance.

Mr Brazier and Miss Woods will publish the facts and figures right from construction to daily running.

The Auckland Council will use the Zero Energy House as a case study for the Auckland Design Manual, a complementary document to the Unitary Plan that will guide quality design in Auckland.

"The manual aims to demonstrate energy efficient design and the house has been chosen as it is a clear evolution of conventional construction practices we see as a rule for homes across Auckland," council spokeswoman Angela Jones says.

"The Zero Energy House is also being looked at in relation to the Unitary Plan itself, specifically to see what lessons can be learnt from this project to make it easier for others in the future who wish to undertake similar projects."

Ms Jones says a Homestar assessment will be able to verify whether the home will have achieved one of the highest ratings of any house in New Zealand.

"All of this is credit to the owners, who have pushed the envelope for sustainable housing and have been generous in making their home available to the council for use in case studies and educating the wider public."

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Zero Energy Explained from Zero Energy House Project on Vimeo.

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