A high-performance home is an investment in the future - for you, your family, and the local and global community.

When thinking about building a home, people often focus on what it looks like, but what about what it feels like to live in?

Imagine your sanctuary, a place to breathe easy and feel comfortable all year, without worries about drafts, overheating, mould, condensation or energy bills.

People are demanding more than ever from the buildings they occupy. We nave a rising awareness of how we as consumers have an impact on climate change.

What can we do to use resources smartly and more efficiently without compromising on quality?

Covid has shone the spotlight on the indoor spaces that we spend our time in – are they comfortable, fit for purpose, and with appropriate ventilation?

We are lucky in New Zealand that we don’t face the extreme temperatures that other parts of the world do. But then even more so we

should question why traditionally our buildings are so cold in the winter, and more and more, overheating in the summer.

With any build or house purchase, we need to consider our priorities.

Sometimes we need to reconsider what is essential. Planning a simpler shape or a slightly smaller house in order to prioritise overall how the building will perform is just smart and forward-thinking.

A Passive House building is designed and built to the climate, and will have excellent air quality, minimal use of energy required for heating and cooling, and a comfortable temperature maintained year-round.

The name Passive House comes from the German Passivhaus. with haus meaning building, and passive referring to the majority of heating and cooling demand being met through “passive sources such as the sun orientation and shading, Or the heat emitted by occupants and household appliances.

Often people talk about applying “Passive House principles”. But this is a bit like assembling the ingredients of a cake and then ignoring the recipe.

You may end up with something edible but it probably won’t be entirely what you expected, and it’s possible that the ingredients won’t interact in the way that was Intended at all.

Passive House done right means that the different components of the building and how the interact with each other and the local climate can be modelled, predicted and measured.

Building a Passive House is a collaborative process – ever evaluated, and checked.

Aiming for Passive House standard means that all the way through the design, build and completion, a skilled professional certifier will be independently checking progress.

This makes it much more likely that any errors in design or construction will be noticed and can be resolved much earlier.

And a Passive House designer or builder knows how thoroughly their work will be checked and that they will be held accountable for the performance of the building

And all this of course means that the homeowner can be confident that they get what they paid for – a durable asset with lasting performance. which will continue to perform as highly as expected for lifetimes.

While Passive House has a specific focus on building performance, it is also complementary with other considerations and schemes.

For example, achieving Passive House standard automatically means a number of credits towards Homestar.

Homebuilders may also consider things such as locally sourced / low carbon/ recycled materials. Other considerations might be minimising construction waste, or making buildings more accessible for old age.

Passive House Institute New Zealand, Te Toputanga o te Whare Korou ki Aotearoa (PHINZ), is the hub of the Passive House community in New Zealand.

Our Te Reo name means the grouping of the houses of vitality, a name which captures the purpose of Passive House beautifully.

Projects such as Ethos Homes’ Bushland Park subdivision demonstrate that we can and should build attractive, healthy, comfortable and sustainable living communities.

Passive House – Homes Where People Thrive, Is a free brochure published by PHINZ which can be downloaded here : https://passivehouse.nz/PH-Homes-Thrive.

The right builder is a crucial choice

Building a new home means many, many decisions.

Beyond the obvious choices of where and what construction process. How will different options impact on the budget, on the timeline, building durability, the health of its occupants, on the planet? It can be dizzying.

Arguably the most crucial choice is finding the right builder to partner with. It’s even more important now given the supply and labour shortages gripping the Industry. The right choice can make for a lot less stress and much better outcomes.

Nadia and Gavin Sole live with their three sons in a delightful certified Passive House in Richmond, Christchurch, that is beautifully fashioned to suit their needs and values.

They chose local, independent builders Ethos Homes before they had even purchased a section. It turned out to be a great decision because Ethos director Pete Bielski’s advice and introductions were valuable from day one.

Some people call this ‘early contractor engagement’, says Pete. “We just call it how we do business.”

The Soles were already sold on the benefits of a Passive House build. Pete introduced them to Karen Manson at Meta Architects who provided Passive House design services. This ensured the Sole’s new nome could meet the objective Passive House criteria for energy efficiency and comfort.

Long-term relationships
The Ethos team have been bullding homes for Christchurch families for years- ever since Pete returned from a trip to Germany, wanting to use what he’d learned building alongside fastidious German craftsman builders.

They take a whole-system approach to what They do partnering with experts to ensure the entire design and construction process is credible, well managed and efficient. Great processes lead to great outcomes.

The firm attracts, and keeps, Skilled builders who want to create better buildings than those that only just meet the NZ Building Code minimum. Client’s also benefit from the company’s long standing relationships with suppliers and consultants, such as local manufacturer Weathershield Windows and Doors, and engineers and designers.

Ethos Panels: faster and better

At the materials level, Ethos Homes is set apart by its use of timber panels they make off site. Those panels can form walls, but also floors and roofs. Ethos are currently building a house for architectural graduate Mark Brokenshire, his second that uses panels made off-site.

There are so many benefits to this approach, says Mark. Properly scheduled, it reduces build time because the panels can be made while the site works are carried out. Working indoors in a well-set out environment lends itself to better quality control. There are no rain delays or soaked timbers either.

The Ethos panels are impressively quick to stand up on site. The panels for Mark’s new home are plywood clad with a weatherproof
laver. They’ll arrive on site, be craned into position and quickly aligned and fixed. Windows
and doors will be fitted on-site. The house will go from a slab to a weathertight building in a matter of days: exciting.

There are other advantages rom Pete’s point of view. “With an Ethos panel, my team is in control of the whole process, rather than having another supply chain to manage and contractor to rely on.

“With the current shortage of building materials and shipping delays, I don’t need extra stress. I also like being in charge of quality control. Building our way, I am absolutely confident about the thermal performance. And if a client wants a last minute variation, we can do that on the spot. Try adding an extra window into a SIP wall, that’s not going to happen” says Pete.

“And we’re using timber from trees grown here in New Zealand. That tree stored carbon while it grew –  now we’re locking up that carbon for generations by using its timber in high-quality homes that are built to last.”

All these factors, an experienced team, a whole system approach and panelisation – are helping Ethos Homes build Bushland Park, New Zealand’s first neighbourhood to target certified Passive House performance. (Infact, the homes are expected to qualify as passive house plus, each generating as much energy via rooftop PV panels as the occupants will use each year.)