As more and more Kiwis start to prioritise a more sustainable house, we’ve seen a number of trends start to gain momentum, both here and abroad. Examining these trends is key to predicting what will be become the norm in home building here in NZ, and that’s why we’re going over them here. To find out how new homes are tackling sustainability, read on.
Home Wind Turbines
New Zealand’s wind resources are substantial, so it’s no wonder that our wind farms are steadily increasing. For Kiwis interested in creating sustainable energy in their homes, there are small-scale wind turbines of varying types and designs which can be affixed to rooftops or mounted on a pole in the ground. The wind turns turbine’s rotor blades, which then spins a shaft connected to a generator, providing electricity for direct use by a private property.
Using wind turbines is becoming more of an attractive option for both homes and businesses alike, as the wind power is clean and renewable, generating electricity without creating any waste or greenhouse gases at all.
It is worth noting, however, that wind turbines tend to be most successful in rural areas where winds are most consistent. Even in windy urban areas, such as Wellington, small-scale wind turbines can struggle to get enough direct wind due to obstructions like trees and nearby rooftops that make winds weaker and more erratic.
If you live in an area with more open space, there is likely to be enough strong, regular wind to make a wind-turbine cost-effective. However, even in places where wind is very common, it’s best to have a secondary source of power. Many homes in New Zealand use solar electricity or micro-hydro systems as sustainable backup power sources.
Rainwater Harvesting Systems
Another popular sustainable home trend is the addition of rainwater harvesting systems. Rainwater tanks are typically cheap and easy to manage, and unlike wind turbines, there’s little chance of you being positioned somewhere that doesn’t see enough rain for it to be worthwhile. In fact, rainwater collection is already common across many rural areas of New Zealand.
Rainwater is great for helping irrigate or water gardens, and most people also use it for washing clothes, running toilets, etc. It’s also possible to drink rainwater, as pollen, mould, and other contaminants are generally only present in very small numbers. In some cases, rainwater can be fresher than water drawn from a public water main, although this varies depending on your location. While rainwater doesn’t need to be filtered or treated before drinking, some people choose to do this.
Rainwater harvesting can be especially useful in Auckland, as taking pressure off mains water supply is important during droughts—the Auckland region is currently facing one now, which could lead to water shortages next summer.
Grey Water Treatment Systems
Another way to conserve water is to use a grey water treatment system. These systems can separate grey water (wastewater from showers and laundry machines) and black water (wastewater from toilets and kitchens). This way, grey water can be treated separately, and used for irrigation.
Here at Craft Homes, we use NaturalFlow septic tanks. These eco-friendly septic tanks are fantastic for boosting sustainability, because they don’t draw any power, or any other resources—they are completely self-sufficient, and use worms to help break down and process wastewater. Not only does the system provide you with liquid fertiliser, it also helps limit the amount of wastewater entering the environment.
Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery (MVHR) systems are the best way to improve indoor air quality in your home in a sustainable manner. Rather than cycling air from your attic space, like other ventilation systems, MVHR are slightly more complex. A Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery System works to maintain a warm, low-humidity environment within the home via its systems of filters and ducts. MVHRs draw fresh air from outside, filter it to remove allergens or pollutants, and delivers it throughout the house. Stale air is drawn out of the home and a heat exchanger is used to recover most of the heat, which is used to warm the incoming fresh air.
These ventilation systems can help retain huge amounts of heat while maintaining air quality, and this can help drive down air-conditioning costs and power usage, making them a great choice for sustainability.
Insulation and Smart MembranesSustainable insulation also plays a big role in keeping your home warm and dry, whilst also helping to protect our environment. There are many insulation products out there, but Terra Lana—made from NZ wool, and made specifically for New Zealand’s climate is great choice for a sustainable, local product, which also comes with BRANZ appraisal.
Intelligent air-tight membranes are a newer concept, made to work in tandem with your insulation and drive down moisture by boosting the airtightness of your home. Essentially, by reinforcing the envelope of your home, you can increase your home’s capacity for staying dry, preventing the development of mould and mildew.
Airtightness is a key element in ensuring insulation systems are working to their fullest extent. Installing an airtight membrane and vapour control layer creates a barrier which eliminates drafts and loss of heat through the building envelope.
Using an air-tight membrane—such as Pro Clima’s Intello—can also help protect your insulation, boosting its effective lifespan, saving you in the long run, and again, driving down the costs and power usage of air-conditioning.
Finally, sustainable carpeting is another new trend to pay attention to, as they’re a good candidate for using sustainable or recycled materials. Cavalier Bremworth, for example, offers 100% NZ wool Champs Elysees carpeting, and even a carpeting made from recycled fishing nets, called Econyl.
It’s time to live greener
If you’re interested in the trends above and want to know what it would take to make your own home more sustainable, talk to the Craft Homes team. We’re leading experts on eco homes in NZ, and we can help you find the perfect sustainability solutions for your home, whether you’re in the market for renovations or new build homes. Contact us now to get a free consultation!
Toby and Cat Tilsley