Look back and celebrate: 8 years of PH in NZ

20 May 2020 by Rachel Rose

It’s eight years since the first New Zealand home was certified as a Passive House. That distinction went to the aptly named PH1NZ in Auckland. (Notable second was a more modest family home in Raglan.)

It’s extraordinary to reflect on how far we’ve come in less than a decade, on multiple fronts: the profile of Passive House in particular and high-performance building in general, the availability of components and the understanding in the industry. It’s not just builders and designers; PH1NZ’s task was to convince Auckland Council’s building inspectors that the superb tilt-turn windows imported from Europe met the Building Code. Met? They vastly exceeded. But such are the burdens of pioneers.

PH1NZ was already designed when the client discovered what Passive House could offer, so it fell to eHaus to step in and provide PH modelling and guidance on necessary design changes.

Raglan Passive House got started first, in 2011, but it broke new ground the whole way and wasn’t officially certified until after PH1NZ. It likewise faced challenges with sourcing components and ensuring they would deliver the required performance. There was no certified climate data available then, which caused significant delays. It was also certified from the UK, because there was no-one local who could do it. (Jason Quinn funded himself to Germany in 2016 to qualify as a PH certifier and is still the only one in New Zealand).

PH1NZ and Raglan Passive House both feature in Jason Quinn’s book Passive House for New Zealand: The warm healthy homes we need, along with 22 other local Passive Houses. Another 10 have been certified since publication and you can read about them in the Sustainable Engineering library. The book is available to purchase in print or download for free—find out more here.

The owners and everyone involved with bringing these early Passive Houses to completion deserve our admiration. They blazed a trail, which has now become a well-formed road, a route for transforming New Zealand building.

Those considering Passive House performance now can readily find skilled professionals to design and build homes to suit a range of budgets. Designers have access to detailed, reliable climate data and have a selection of components to choose from, both locally made or assembled as well as imported.

These are all welcome changes. The next development to watch is larger buildings, like apartments, office blocks and community buildings. Watch this space.

—20 May 2020

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