We can build Passive House quality for the same price as Code-minimum: here’s proof

12 March 2021 by Jason Quinn

Joe Lyth is an Auckland based architect and newly-minted Passive House designer. He’s also an UK import who looks on the crappy homes New Zealanders put up with through an immigrant’s fresh eyes.

Joe’s family are about to move into their new Passive House home that was built for less than a comparable new Auckland house. He’s written about this at length on Architecture Now:

“Why are there swathes of minimum code homes going up that will be uncomfortable, unhealthy, carbon heavy and expensive to run when, for the same money, you could have a comfortable, healthy home with a [much lower] power bill and a massively reduced carbon footprint?”

Joe has designed and built a four-bedroom, two bathroom home (169 m2, two storey) for less than $3000/m2. That includes some cost savings not available to the average home owner; accounting for that, Joe estimates $3500/m2. That’s about average for a stand-alone, one-off new home in Auckland that involved architects. (It also includes, by the way, the septic system, two fire supply tanks, two rainwater tanks and a 56m2 fully covered deck.)

Joe ends by asking, “as I look around the single glazed, mouldy buildings around me, the question isn’t whether we can afford to build healthier homes, it’s whether we can afford not to.”

Every home we build matters as it will be around for several generations (90+ years). We already have a huge tail of inadequate housing stock going back 100 years that needs to be extensively retrofitted. We desperately don’t need to add brand new, Code-minimum houses to that list of buildings requiring fixing.

The next challenge is demonstrating that Passive House standards can be reached at a price comparable to group home builders, because they, not architects and bespoke builders, are designing and building the majority of New Zealand’s new homes.

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