Tag: Auckland green-building

Auckland green building

North Shore Green Building – What Is It And How To Do It

North Shore Green Building – Why It Matters And How to Do It

Conversations about the environment, climate change, and healthy buildings have increased significantly in recent times. Laws like the Carbon Zero Act, have been enacted to put in place actions to address some of those issues. But what about environmentally-friendly homes or green building in Auckland? What steps have been taken, what are future plans, and how can you have a green home?

In this article, the first of two about North Shore “green building”, we will look at the background issues, and next month we will talk about how you can apply “green building” thinking to your new home.

Background On Green Building

First, let’s look at “green building” and what does it mean?

North Shore green buildingA green home is not just a well-insulated building. It includes design ideas to reduce heat loss, minimise energy consumption, employ techniques and building materials that are themselves sustainable and have low carbon emissions.

It even covers the carbon emissions of the construction process itself including the green building contractors.

Green Building is aiming for net-zero carbon building. An end-to-end house building process from materials to the performance of the finished house for living.

Why Do We Need Green Building?

By international standards, the construction and especially insulation requirements for houses in New Zealand are poor. In New Zealand most houses are built on a concrete slab which is cold and takes heat out of the house. There is no warming air-flow underneath the building either.  By contrast, in the UK if a house is built on a concrete slab, that has to be insulated by law. Alternatively, many houses in the UK have space beneath them which allows air flow which is both warming and also reduces condensation or damp.

The NZ Building Code (NZBC) is also not very far-reaching. For example, it doesn’t cover what are known as thermal bridges. These are joins in the outer skin such as walls, window frames and doors butting together, or glass windows allowing the rapid escape of heat. In the UK and elsewhere, the equivalent building codes require designs to reduce thermal bridges such as double or triple glazing, and airtightness i.e. not allowing draughts or poor joints. In fact, in the UK, new homes pressure testing for air-tightness is obligatory.

R values London and ChristchurchNZ Behind Global Leaders

Another example of how the NZBC is behind international standards is that in 2006, 14 years ago, the UK government said that all new homes must be carbon neutral by 2016, four years ago.  We still do not even have the regulations in place.

The NZ Building Code is relatively poor but fixing the thermal bridge and airtightness is only part of the process. It is a step towards green building, not the solution to it.

Damp and cold are not the only problems with the NZBC. Another problem is the opposite, where homes overheat. Again, this is due to poor ventilation not allowing efficient air flows, and poor regulation of consumption of energy within the building.

Next month we will be talking about the specific actions, designs, and building techniques for you to have your bespoke green home.

In the meantime, if you have any questions on green-building, please give us a call on 0800 224 628 or contact us via email at enquiries@cainbuilt.co.nz.

Eco-building, Green-building

Auckland Green-Building Eco-House Builder

Green-Building; Homes To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

When asked the question what is green-building? Most people automatically think of ‘Grand Designs’ with houses built from packed mud and hay. Other materials might include homemade clay-tile roofs and recycled beer bottles for windows. This is perhaps an option for ‘green building’ and looks impressive on TV. However, there is a range of different options to “do your bit” without going quite to those lengths.

With the increasing activity about climate change, environmental impacts, carbon footprints, excessive waste, sustainability, it is time to look at green-building. But first, let’s see where we are and how current building techniques stand up in this debate.

A Review of Traditional Building


Traditional building frankly is not sustainable, has a high carbon footprint, high emissions, and poor impacts on the environment.

One of the biggest carbon emitters is concrete, or more specifically, cement. A concrete pad or brick-built house will have quite significant carbon emissions. Efforts are out there globally to reduce its impact; however this isn’t common practice.

Wood used for framing, while it does come from a forest which is likely to be replanted. This means that the carbon footprint to get the wood into a usable state on-site, is heavy. Cutting, trimming, transporting multiple times, it soon builds up.

House designs are not as efficient as they could be, resulting in lots of wasted energy.  This ranges from roofing and wall materials, heating systems, to inefficient lighting design and fixtures allowing considerable heat escape.

In short, traditional building has been a very poor example of a sustainable industry.

What Is Green-Building?

Auckland eco-house buildingA green home is one that uses sustainable building practices, uses less energy and water to live in, produces less waste, and is also a healthier home.

Simple things like the correct orientation of your home to naturally maximise warmth from the sun and cooling from a breeze. This can help you in reducing the energy needed to cool and heat your home.

Consider the size of the home you actually need. Do you really need four or five bedrooms when three or four might do just as well?

Green-building also looks at the materials used in the construction of a house. Modern materials are often better at retaining or reflecting heat, are more durable, and can even be made from recycled materials. Other materials will be produced in a more sustainable way too.

But it is not just new materials. Older building techniques are being used like vegetation on roofs or adobe-style muds to provide insulation.

Some people even use modern non-building materials. For example, old tyres can be filled with mud to produce stable, and very energy-efficient homes. Glass or plastic bottles can be used for walls and then covered with adobe or other protective material.

Well-known Green-Building Methods

There are plenty of obvious and long-standing green building concepts that are still not commonly used. These include solar panels on the roof, under-floor heating (heat rises), extra insulation in the walls, and double or even triple glazing to reduce heat-loss. Modern heating systems are generally better than older ones for energy efficiency both in consumption and output.

Sustainable Materials and Production Techniques

Auckland green house buildingA green home is one in which the building materials are all sustainable and use less natural and other limited resources.

Increasing the use of materials that have been recycled can have a big impact. Reusing materials from homes that have been dismantled is a common tactic. This can add the retro-chic style many people want these days.

Use wood that has been sustainably harvested and where the supply chain is documented and certified. Some materials like bamboo are easily and quickly renewable.

Make sure that any materials you use are non-toxic ad non-allergenic. Of course, one of the biggest pollutants is trucks on the road, so reduce your impact by buying materials that are available locally. You also help the local economy.

Recycling Waste

Green-building can also apply to design. For example, rain run-off from a roof is usually wasted, going into the drainage system. This water can be used for non-drinking water inside the home or recirculated around the garden. Some types of vegetation on the roof, can filter the water to remove pollutants. Some can even make the water potable.

Efficient Appliances

Heating systems are not the only improvements in living. Modern household appliances are much more energy-efficient than they used to be. Make it a point to install only appliances that are energy efficient.

Use lighting fixtures that have low power requirements while still giving you the level of lighting that you require.

Install showerheads and toilets that use a low flow of water. Install a system to harvest rainwater and reduce your dependence on water supplied by the local utility companies.

These days many appliances can be controlled by apps on your phone You can turn them on when you need them such as heating the home before you get back, or turn them off if you forgot when you left the house.

Healthier Homes

Building materials used should never contribute to the toxins or allergens in the house. Pick paints with low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC).  Choose floor coverings that are made of natural materials and avoid those that are made of artificial fibres.

You can go further in the building of a green home. You can install systems that constantly monitor your use of energy in the form of water and electricity.

  • Change your lifestyle to make less use of hot water or heating and cooling devices.
  • Stop using dryers and go in for natural drying of clothes.
  • Reduce heating temperatures for hot water and heating.
  • Set your air conditioning to cool at higher temperatures.
  • Switch off appliances like televisions and computers when they are not in use.
  • Install timers or motion sensors to switch off lights.

Conserve Water and Energy

A green home must be one that constantly conserves the use of water and energy.  It should be built with materials that have had the least impact on the environment and energy use. It must also be one that produces the least waste during its use. Some people argue that the cost of these is not economic and that it can take years to recover the investment. The key here is the word “investment”.

Firstly, a home is built for a long-life, not a short-term pay-off. More often nowadays house buyers want to buy efficient homes. If your home does not have those, then it will not be as good a property investment as one that is built with these green building concepts.

Secondly, many people will say that green building is not just an investment in the actual home.  It is an investment in the planet too.

At Cain Built, we are increasingly being asked to look at green-building for ideas and techniques. If you’re looking to build a new green home in Auckland or renovate to have a greener home, please give us a call on 0800 224 628 or email at enquiries@cainbuilt.co.nz and we will gladly have a chat with you about your aims and give you some guidance on your green home.