New Zealand has suffered a double whammy this winter – spiraling consumer price inflation and a pretty nasty winter – to put it mildly!
The image we like to think of for this country is that of bright rich sunlight and warm summer days on the beach and yet for a lot of us NZ means cold winters in houses which many people around the world would be staggered to hear are poorly heated at best and at worst – not heated.
I recall fondly living in Sweden some ten or fifteen years ago and everyone I spoke to about the country believed that to survive their sub-arctic winters that Swedes must be hardy folk who can endure cold – no such thing! They live in communally heated, super insulated houses, stepping as they do into their “heated-over-night” cars and travel to underground car parks at work. They wear sensible outdoor winter clothes which they shed when they come back inside. The lesson is build for the conditions; and for NZ that should be cold winters and warm summers. This is a key part of eco-design. Capturing and using the best of materials and natural features such as passive thermal heating through solid concrete walls and floors, double glazing, adequate insulation and solar heating.
These aspects of eco-design are becoming valued by some countries far more than fancy architecture and double garages. I was appreciative of the following article sent to me by a passionate believer in eco-house design and construction. He works for Right House who provide advice and solutions both for new build and also renovations and improvements.
The article from Seattle should gain some traction as it provides evidence that environmentally certified homes sold for a 5.9 percent premium on a square foot basis. As Aaron Adelstein, Executive Director of Built Green says:
“Until now, the idea that people are willing to pay more for environmentally certified housing has been mostly based on anecdotes,” “Now we have the first hard data to back up what many of us have believed for a long time – green sells for more.”
It makes sense a house environmentally certified to provide a warmer, more comfortable environment with lower running costs should attract a premium, or at least be easier to sell as it has a distinct point of difference. The only question for kiwis is how can we evaluate independently the energy rating of a home?
Our own governement agency EECA has a Home Energy Rating Scheme which is provided through certified inspectors, although with only 8 to cover the whole country at this stage you may have to be patient to get an assesment undertaken. Although in some ways the tangible benefits of proper insulation and energy saving are far more valuable than a certificate until the certification process gains some traction – I sense a dilemma of the “chicken and egg”.