Carbon-zero home under construction
Sun, 08 Jul 2012 6:18p.m.
By Tom McRae
To meet expected population growth, Auckland needs 400,000 new homes in the next 30 years.
A visiting British expert says every one of those should be, and could be, carbon neutral.
The very first official carbon-zero home in the country is under construction.
With a solar hot water system, special insulation and framing, the house will be entirely self-sufficient and won't use any electricity.
“Anyone not choosing this way of living compared to the normal house-builders’ product is probably just stupid,” says zero-carbon housing pioneer Bill Dunster.
Bill Dunster is in the country to spread the word. He pioneered carbon-zero houses in the UK and says the standard of housing here is incredibly poor.
“[There are] very low levels of insulation, very low costs of construction [and] not particularly durable materials,” says Mr Dunster. “I would say all the materials are here. You've just got to up your game. It's not rational to sit shivering with your heat pump on.”
Auckland Council outlined in its long-term plan the need for 400,000 new homes in the next 30 years. It's looking at ways to make sure as many of those are carbon-zero.
“The more that people demand this type of house, the more they demand the type of materials in it, the more the cost will come down and there are reasons people should do it,” says Peter Maxwell of Auckland Council.
Building a carbon-zero home is roughly 15 percent more expensive. But according to Mr Dunster, in five years’ time it will cost the same as a normal house.
“You've got to see it working, see it's not very frightening,” says Mr Dunster. “It's entirely rational and then you wouldn't ask for anything else.”
As he sees it, there's no reason to build any other way.
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7/08/2012 9:09:03 a.m.
Andrew Anquetil wrote:
I have lived in West Australia for a number of years and owned two houses which I had built there. Each house was built using a double brick construction method that was the favoured method of construction during my time there. I can assure you that this method is not much more thermally efficient than houses built here in New Zealand. The point I’m making here is that just because we (Australia and New Zealand) have an abundance of clay to make bricks and trees to make timber framing and cladding, we seem to missing the mark when it comes to building dry, warm(inverse for summer), healthy homes for people. Regardless of whether we power these houses by small wind turbines or solar power, or from traditional mains grid, we need to build better insulated homes that are more energy efficient to start with. I currently live in seven year old home which only just missed the law change requiring double glazing to be installed as a prerequisite. The house is cold in winter and hot in summer. We crank the heat pumps and could really use a ventilation arrangement to dry the house out and hopefully add to temperature control (HRV etc). I think it is shear stupidity to have to retrofit a dwelling with air conditioners and home ventilation systems to modify the environment enough to make it inhabitable and healthy. We should be sorting this at the construction phase with the use of the right materials and design. Yes it will cost more initially, but my kids and family are worth it.
31/07/2012 10:12:56 a.m.
Well done on using the power of the sun and looking at the environment. I too am trying to develop a carbon zero brand. As a painter and decorator i have used many products over the years that destroy the environment. I am now looking at changing my ways and becoming a green painter. It doesn't take much effort and only requires a few simple changes, along with a mindset change.
Using solar, wind etc. Becoming green and looking after the environment is not about a financial cost. It is about an environmental cost.
I want the people who made comments below not to scoff at what is being tried to achieve here, but to look at it positively. The owner and builder weren't doing this to change the world. They were probably just thinking that this has to be done to play their part in changing perceptions.
Now for all those who think solar is too expensive. Here's a way you can afford it and do so much more to help the environment. Tomorrow as you drive to or from work look at all the cars on the road and count how many people are in each vehicle. How much money and fuel are you wasting going to work when the person in the car next to you is going to the same place you are. Try carpooling, take a bus or ride a bike to work. The fuel saving cost will give you enough money to buy solar panels. You reduce your impact on the environment and you save money. You don't even need to be a greeny to do this.
And even if you don't buy solar panels at least you have minimised your impact on the environment by using less fossil fuel.
28/07/2012 1:10:58 p.m.
"and won't use any electricity." - whats the purpose of the solar panel then? And why would anybody want a home with no electricity?
11/07/2012 6:45:57 p.m.
This sounds like it would be a good idea if you can afford the extra cost of the house (most cannot) but at the present level of technology construction of eco-houses cannot become widespread or you'd end up with an excess of power to the grid during sunny/windy times which cannot be used. You still need the supply from the grid as a permanent backup when it isn't sunny/windy so no matter how many people build eco-houses, there will be no fossil fuel power plants decommissioned if we want to maintain supply (unless the energy can be stored, ie. by batteries). I know this is hardly relevant at the moment but if we really are looking to how things are going to work in future, this isn't going to be a realistic option.
11/07/2012 9:02:37 a.m.
And how much do the solar panels degrade over time? How much maintenence do they require? How much component replacement do they require?Often the cost of these eco homes is calculated when new, and dont include any of these servicing costs nor replacement costs. They also dont include the cost of servicing the debt on the added cost.Its like the Prius hybrid cars, yes they do lower fuel costs, but when factor in the battery replacement, the added purchase cost, they are less enviromentally friendly than a pure but efficient fuel burning car. Eg compare the economy of the Prius with say a VW Polo and the Polo typically gives better economy, even before factor in the battery replacement/servicing/added purchase price.We do need more work done to make solar power an option, but it has to be an affordable option that saves money. If it saves money, people will use it.Take the energy saving bulbs today. These have likes of mercury in them so need to be disposed of as hazzardous waste while the less efficient bulb is less hazzardous. But then we shouldn't even be using the energy saving bulbs as they are inefficient and LED lighting is roughly 5x as efficient and more reliable than the energy saving bulbs. Take TV's, notice the back lighting has been changing. The older LCD TV's using basically the energy saving bulbs to light, and the newer ones use LED back lighting and much less power, plus the LED's take less room. LED isn't new tech as we have had it for over 50 years.
11/07/2012 2:45:10 a.m.
bill dunster wrote:
the carbon zero homes generate more electricity than they use over a year. They are grid connected - so sometimes exporting, sometimes importing. No batteries needed. Big wind,tidal and Pyrolysis of urban and agricultural waste makes up the difference. The total cost of a carbon zero roof system might be around 25,000 dollars on a house worth 250,000 or more. And you dont need to buy a roof and have no more electric bills for another thirty to forty years. Building integrated solar is an important part of a clean green future, but take care to add extra insulation, draughtproofing and heat recovery ventilation if it falls below zero in your area often.
9/07/2012 11:05:35 a.m.
how do I get in contact with the builders
8/07/2012 11:48:03 p.m.
I doubt it will be as little as 15% more expensive... They claim to use batteries to store the solar/wind power for times when there is no sun or wind but you'd need some pretty massive batteries to power an entire house. They ignore the fact that those batteries will need replacing in about 10 years (or less) and considering electric car batteries are around $10,000 to replace, a house-battery is going to be a LOT more than that. Batteries of that type need rare earth elements like lithium and cobalt in their construction. Those elements need to be mined. Hardly "carbon-zero".
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