Eco-friendly house breaks new ground

18:44, Jan 19 2012
Passive House
ECO MISSION: Philip Ivanier's new Glendowie home will be New Zealand's first certified passive house.

The desire to build a healthy, eco-friendly family home has led Philip Ivanier to create a New Zealand first.

While it may look like a regular building site, this Glendowie property will soon be New Zealand's first certified passive house.

"We found the site first and designed our home but we wanted to create something eco-friendly – it seemed the right thing to do," he says.

Passive houses require very little heating or cooling and have excellent insulation which keeps the temperature comfortable all year round.

Their energy use and carbon emissions are very low.

Mr Ivanier is Canadian and moved to New Zealand eight years ago and soon discovered that passive houses are not common here. Many of the materials had to be imported and Auckland Council had never considered the type of resource consents needed.

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"I have to say, the council has been great. We started working with them very early on and they've been very supportive."

Auckland Council's urban design champion Ludo Campbell-Reid is a fan of the project.

"Philip is leading the way here for a new form of environmentally sustainable, high-quality home that is cheap to run. As a council we are looking forward to seeing the results and want to empower people like Philip to be able to do things that will improve housing."

It's not a simple process. Most of the expertise needed is in Europe. To be certified the building has to meet very high standards and the nearest English-speaking certifier is in Ireland.

"Obviously we're not flying him out from Ireland to certify each stage. We've sent him our plans and the design has been modelled by a piece of software which tells us it will work. We are sending the certifier photos as we go to prove that we are building it as we should," Mr Ivanier says.

Because a passive house is sealed and has fresh air circulated by a ventilation system, the design has to undergo a series of air tests to prove that the membrane is airtight.

"Most Kiwi houses wouldn't pass that test – the tests would read as if all the windows were open."

Mr Ivanier acknowledges that building a passive house is costly and he's not sure what his total bill will be. However he's convinced it's all worthwhile.

"They're incredibly healthy to live in. They're incredibly insulated. We should be able to heat and cool it for around $20 a month, there will be solar panels on the roof and we should be able to put some power back to the grid. There will be no mould or mildew. For children, for anyone with allergies, it's great."

The project has captured the interest of Auckland University's school of architecture. The school will monitor the air quality of the house to prove that the system works as it should.

Mr Ivanier would like to see the concept used more widely, particularly in state housing.

You can follow the construction of the house online at http://passivehouse1nz.blogspot.com/

East And Bays Courier