An energy-wise motel owner

Last updated 07:50 12/11/2012

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Alex Fensome talks to an Invercargill holiday park owner about his well-designed motel units.

Top 10 Holiday Park owner Philip Todd is proud of his two energy-efficient motel units.

The two units have a solar hot water system, with the panels mounted on the roof. In the summer, it produces more than enough hot water for guests.

The units are also insulated, double-glazed and fitted with low-energy lightbulbs.

All the components, including the solar panels, were sourced from Southland companies.

"That's the way the world was starting to move," he said. "We're part of Sustainable Tourism South and we've got to walk the talk."

However, it wasn't all plain sailing.

It took three years to build the motel units - Mr Todd is a good example of what experts call the "cycle of blame" which slows down energy-efficient building.

Councils are afraid of being held accountable for building failures, builders want to keep their costs down and developers want to move as fast as possible.

So they stick with the minimum necessary insulation and design factors.

Mr Todd has some opinions on what needs to change.

"Nobody actually shows leadership . . . They are risk-averse. It stymies what we're looking for."

The building process needed to be changed to give incentives to energy efficiency and sustainability, he said.

The council could offer discounts on permits for new builds if they maximised energy-efficient standards.

Too often, builders were looking to cut costs and built to the minimum standard required to get a permit.

There was no incentive to build to a higher standard.

Mr Todd suggested offering a $200 discount on a new building permit if the builders and developers were willing to spend a bit more money to make it energy-efficient.

When someone came in looking to build a new house or office block, they could be told how to make it more efficient; Mr Todd suggested renaming building compliance officers as education officers.

"For the last 30 years we've been cost-conscious about every single thing," he said. "Everyone has been far too interested in cost . . . We're starting to change the focus back to saying: let's [spend] more and get a quality product."

Many of the factors that make the motel units successful - double glazing, insulation - are standard in European houses.

The Southland Warm Homes Trust has installed insulation in about 4000 old houses.

In 30 years, the trust should not have to insulate houses built today, Mr Todd said. Southland needed to adopt high standards of energy efficiency.

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"I would like to see councils to start showing leadership, incentives for people to do the extra bit.

"We don't want to be refitting buildings with better insulation [in the future]."

- The Southland Times

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