Home builders in NZ must abide by the New Zealand Building Code but, in most cases, there’s no incentive to build beyond the minimum code requirements. A report released by BRANZ in June this year--Bulletin 650; Building Beyond Code Minimum—has provided plenty of food for thought regarding who should drive better-performing buildings in New Zealand. BRANZ is an independent research organisation, providing impartial, evidence-based advice on issues within construction and building in NZ. Today, we’re examining the findings of this report and what they mean for the home building industry in NZ.
The Current Building Code
Currently, most new homes in New Zealand are built to meet the minimum performance criteria set out by the New Zealand Building Code. This minimum code means “the poorest performing home that can be legally built”. What people often do not realise is that the minimum requirements are often far below what is currently accepted in Australia, parts of Europe, and the UK.
Building Beyond Code Minimums
Few homes are currently built to standards beyond this minimum performance criteria. However, “Code-plus” homes are known to offer a huge number of benefits to their occupants. They demonstrate “better performance, improved liveability, healthier indoor environments, greater energy efficiency, and reduced building running costs, as well as better accessibility, durability, and resilience”. Additionally, a Code-plus approach is more likely to help NZ achieve the 2050 target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
The upfront cost of building beyond code may be more, but the BRANZ report found that these homes provide reduced running costs, which offset the upfront cost.
Who Should Drive Better-Performing Buildings?
Research done by BRANZ found varying levels of consumer trust in building professionals. However, when the builder and consumer “share similar values such as an interest in sustainability”, a Code-plus home will more likely be achieved.
The relationship and degree of trust between the designer, builder, and consumer are more important than ever. The decision to make the additional investment in building a higher-performing home is a major one. As building professionals, we believe it is our responsibility to educate ourselves and our teams on the technical aspects and resulting benefits of building beyond code. Interviews conducted with builders have shown that builders “didn’t believe it was their role to advise clients” on which sustainability features to include or the benefits of including them. Many said that clients preferred to spend their money on “things they can see”.
At Craft Homes, we believe that an important part of our role is to educate clients about the benefit of incorporating the basic features of a high performing home, such as airtightness and ventilation. The consumer can then make an informed decision as to whether they would like to incorporate some of these features into their home.
In July this year, the government announced that the current Building Code would be changing in 2021 to “be more climate friendly”, with plans to raise the minimum standards currently in place. This change cannot come soon enough. How far it will go in alleviating the gap between the current code in New Zealand compared to other OECD nations is yet to be seen.
What can we do to help?
Ultimately, the government must be responsible for setting the standards for construction within New Zealand. However, in the time it takes for these changes to come into effect, many more homes will be built to the current poor minimum requirements. We believe that as building professionals we need to lead the way in educating our clients and encouraging them to see the many benefits in building a new home to higher performance standards. This will benefit not only their own families but the future of New Zealand too.
To find out more about what we can do to help you build better, get in contact today, and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.
Toby and Cat Tilsley