Affordable, build-ready Eco homes and low energy bills for life

Eco-home builders say that for the same amount as a conventional home you can have a house with near zero energy bills by dropping the size by 10 percent.

Homeowners are swapping out warm, dry, healthy cost-effective homes for an extra bedroom or bathroom.

Solutions lie within build-ready, energy-efficient home plans. eHaus is a nationwide housing company specialising in passive house design and construction. Recently eHaus released a collection of build-ready, energy-efficient house plans. The designs in the People’s Home Collection range from $560,000 to $650,000.

Whilst they are not certified Passive Houses, director Baden Brown says the three-bedroom houses have been energy modelled across all 18 climate zones in New Zealand – using the Passive House energy efficiency computer software (PHPP) as a performance base to maximise high performance.

“One of the biggest challenges when building a new home is budget and often as a trade-off things like energy efficiency and performance aren’t considered,” Brown says. “eHaus wants to bridge that gap.”

Brown confirms the plans will operate well above the eHaus Pacific standard. He says they will use 88 percent less heating energy than if the same plans were built to the current New Zealand building code.

With an airtight thermal envelope and air exchange system, the eHaus builds will maintain a constant minimum temperature of 20 degrees inside all year round requiring less heating and cooling.

The contemporary designs present spacious, open-plan living areas and soaring ceilings that follow raked rooflines. Sustainable materials, designs and construction are used to minimise waste.


eHouse is part of the Superhome Movement which recently held open homes throughout the country. Eco Built Homes is another Superhome builder in Christchurch offering the Affordabuilt range.

Director Kyle Byers was inspired from his own experience living with babies in old homes, paying $800 monthly for power in winter. He thought there must be a cheaper way to stay warm. He worked on the idea for years with a goal to design something warm, healthy and affordable to entry-level buyers.

“People are wanting to be in energy-efficient homes but can’t afford the big architectural homes with all the bells and whistles” Byers explains.

Byers says the Affordabuilt plans usually cost $330,000 to $350,000 for a three-bedroom home with one bathroom – and low energy bills for life. While they look like most other homes on the street it is what lies behind the walls, ceilings and underfloors that sets them and their power bills apart. Instead of airtight thermal envelope the Affordabuilt houses have thicker framing allowing for thicker insulation and in-slab radiant heating. Minimal thermal bridging is standard.

The $319,000 Canterbury home in the photo received winter power bills of just $160 a month, and $75 in summer. 

Adapted from Colleen Hawkes, Builders making high-performance eco-homes more affordable.

A check up from the House Doctor

Self-proclaimed House Doctor solutions could save homeowners thousands of dollars in energy and medical bills.

House Doctor

Nelson Lebo is an Eco-design advisor for the Palmerston North City Council. The House Doctor is frustrated with the state of New Zealand homes.

As an EDA Lebo diagnoses unwell buildings. He offers free advice on making existing homes warmer, healthier and more efficient through renovations and retrofits. “I’m a house detective, a house doctor prescribing solutions.”

With a PhD in science and sustainability education, the certified home-performance-advisor has diagnosed over 2000 homes and prescribed solutions aligning with family budget, lifestyle and type of house.

One client John Hornblow says “Nelson is so sensible and practical with so much technical knowledge and experience. His explanations were completely understandable.”

The better approach is not to amend existing homes but to design them more efficiently in the first place. Lebo says when he is invited to look over and review new house plans it is often too late for his recommendations – and by then too costly to be taken on board. He says that due to Covid uncertainties, the housing crisis, climate crisis, and rising costs, priorities don’t lie in designing efficient buildings. Instead they lie in simply getting them built as fast as possible. Lebo describes these factors as brewing a perfect storm against high-performance homes.


His plan?


The House Doctor believes he could help more wanting to assist homeowners for free with a tiny service cost to individual ratepayers.

Lebo observed people quickly adapting and using technology to communicate during Covid-19. He saw this as an opportunity to change his business model and reach a wider market. Lebo would like to advise people remotely making his service free to those who need it.

“Organisations such as a District Health Board, an Iwi, a Council, a Social Service pay for the membership and then all of their members or residents get free access to it.” Lebo explains his green, low-cost business model which could reap massive benefits.

Adapted from Janine Rankin, House doctor is frustrated people are building their houses wrong anCan’t sleep because of the heat? Try this clever fan trick


New Zealand’s first Zero-Cost Superhome is on the market!

Addington is home to New Zealand’s first Superhome – the first home in New Zealand designed and built to the highest possible Homestar rating – 10!

Insulation Heat Loss Diagram

The Homestar rating from the New Zealand Green Building Council takes into account energy use, ventilation, water, waste, health and comfort.

Only two other houses in the country have reached a 10 since this home’s completion in 2015. Most standard new builds in New Zealand would reach only a 3 or 4 rating.

This Superhome brings in Zero cost power bills. It is so energy efficient that it receives credits from the power company over the summer months.

Architectural designer Bob Burnett is selling the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home situated in Church Square Addington, Christchurch. His innovative house sits in place of an earthquake damaged cottage. According to Burnett (Superhome Movement co-founder) the home formed part of a vision for demonstrating healthier homes and more sustainable ideals for an energy efficient, low carbon future. For the last five years it was made available to the public as a demonstration home and is now on the market.

“The aim was to demonstrate that smarter designed and better built affordable, warm, comfortable healthy homes were easily achievable using better techniques and commonly available materials,” Bob says.

Insulation Heat Loss Diagram

Designed to provide the best possible living experience in a compact footprint, the 140sqm home fits a small 285sqm site – although Burnett says its design feels bigger. Environmentally certified natural materials are used to achieve the 10 Homestar rating, along with innovative technology not common in typical New Zealand homes.

Under the stairs a concealed storage cupboard contains a large hot water cylinder that acts as a heat sink, a solar PV inverter and batteries. An enlarged landing at the top of the stairs allows for a home office space and circulation to the three bedrooms and bathroom. The bottom three stairs have been turned into drawers for footlockers.

Insulation Heat Loss Diagram

Additionally the sustainable home features 18 solar panels, rainwater and grey water systems. Black tiles surrounding the perimeter assist with solar gain complete with a carport and electric vehicle charging outlet.

The ‘super-insulated’ home includes R10 ceilings, R4 walls and an R3.6 floor rating. Solar wall and heat exchange fresh air ventilation, and the concrete floor is fully insulated and heated with solar powered hot water. Recessed PVC durable windows with thermal bridging to reduce heat loss and mould growth.

Insulation Heat Loss Diagram

Listing agent Steven Ell from Harcourts Holmwood says that the home would be wonderful to live in with the combination of heating, insulation and ventilation making for a very comfortable environment.

Adapted from Joanna Davis, Want zero power bills in a suburb voted New Zealand’s best? Try this ‘Superhome’ for sale for the first time.

Got questions? Call us on 03 384 9001 or Request a FREE Consultation

From Rags to Riches – the Power of Insulation

Fed up with feeling cold and damp in their ageing farm house, property owners in Banks Peninsula wanted to downsize.

Insulation Heat Loss Diagram

Seeing potential in their neglected milking shed on the same property, the couple called in Walker Architecture designer Pete Hodge from Christchurch. Hodge came to take a look finding a structurally sound shed, solid concrete columns and beams. Together they decided to transform the milking shed into a classic yet glamorous home.

The determined couple were keen to do their own research and be involved throughout the process. “The clients were very driven to be informed,” Hodge explained of them understanding how the house would operate and breathe. 

The milking shed’s concrete structure allowed for absorption and storage of heat which met healthy home and energy efficient standards.

Peeled right back to its skeleton, rigid foam insulation was installed within the buildings’ walls, floor and ceiling. Windows and doors were positioned to minimise heat loss. Hodge explains that when the air temperature cools, the heat absorbed by the concrete is released back into the room where the insulation prevents it from escaping.

Insulation Heat Loss Diagram
Insulation Heat Loss Diagram

It was difficult for them to come to terms with not needing the existing log burner or space for storing wood due to the well-insulated design. They decided on a small fireplace purely for the cosy ambience.

The couple didn’t like the idea of a new townhouse. They wanted context and narrative which was achieved through the limited palette of materials and simple ‘L’ shape. The simplicity of the house and its original foundations keeps its connection to its rural environment and farm surroundings.

Adapted from Colleen Hawkes, Derelict milking shed converted into stunning eco farmhouse

Got questions? Call us on 03 384 9001 or Request a FREE Consultation

Not all Taranaki homeowners plan to fix their home’s warrant of fitness issues – Jane Matthews

Even after being told their houses weren’t up to scratch homeowners weren’t convinced they needed to fix the problems, a study in Taranaki has found.

The University of Otago study found that 92 percent of the homes they commissioned assessments for failed, and not all owners planned to amend their home’s health and safety issues.

The assessments, which took place in 2017 but have only just been published in a report, found 76 of the 83 Taranaki homes surveyed with the university’s ‘warrant of fitness’ (Wof) failed.

Wise Better Homes, a non-profit charitable trust that installs insulation in the Taranaki region, organised trained assessors to carry out the assessments.

The Wof is a pass or fail tool that consists of 29 criteria that researchers believe have an important impact on health, safety energy efficiency.

In terms of components related to safety, most properties passed the criteria for lighting, power outlets and light switches, and intact wall, ceiling, and floor linings.

Among injury hazards, it was most common for properties to fail the following criteria: having paths, decks, and surfaces non-slippery and free of moss and having window security stays where required in the living area.

The study arose to see if homeowners would make voluntary improvements to their homes if they failed the Wof.

And when homeowners were interviewed after they received a report highlighting their property’s issues it was found not all planned to amend everything.

Of the 40 homeowners interviewed in the study, 31 planned to fix at least one of the issues.

However, many said they would not fix all the failings of their homes.

Researchers found participants were least likely to address issues such as security stays on windows and absence of ground vapour barrier.

For some cost was a factor, whereas others didn’t believe that the identified improvement would make a difference to health and safety in the home.

Report co-author Dr Lucy Telfar-Barnard said in a media release this shows the importance of knowledge to encourage housing improvements.

“Some people said they wouldn’t install a ground vapour barrier because it was dry under the house – not realising that even dry ground releases damp which rises into homes,” Telfar-Barnard said.

“Providing people with information on just how each housing defect affects health and safety may encourage people to make improvements.”

The researchers highlighted the importance of understanding the risks of the wof failings, and the need for potential funding support.

“Providing funding support to make improvements, as well as additional information to explain how improvements are likely to boost the health and safety of occupants and of visitors, could encourage owners to make improvements that have demonstrated health and safety benefits,” the report read.

Despite the majority of the homes failing their inspections overall they had passed the majority of the 29 items.

The research was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health

Rental properties ‘could end up better than landlords’ homes’ – Susan Edmunds

Rental property rule changes could mean landlords end up offering tenants better quality homes than they live in themselves, a group representing investors says.

Stop the War on Tenancies has been founded to tackle the Government’s plans to overhaul the rental property sector.

Standards are being worked on that will set out the rental property insulation and heating requirements of the Health Homes Guarantee Act.  The Government is also working through a proposed revamp of the Residential Tenancies Act, to give tenants more rights.

Stop the War on Tenancies spokesman Mike Butler said it was likely rental properties could end up a higher standard than some of the homes of those who owned.

Investor Lily Leung agreed some tenants would be living in “far better” conditions than their landlord’s own home.

“But that’s not the concern. The concern is that owners are being forced to waste money on things that are not even necessary in most cases… fixed heaters tenants won’t even use, certain standards of insulation that will make no difference.

“Homes are often not damp, it’s the way the tenants live that’s the issue.”

Andrew King, executive officer of the New Zealand Property Investors Federation said his organization’s biggest worry about the Healthy Homes changes was the suggestion that heat pumps could be mandatory.

He said they were expensive to install and maintain and such a rule would lead to rent rises. “[The Government] wants them because they are more efficient to run but by the time the rent goes up to cover the cost, it kind of negates that argument.”

Investor Nick Gentle said there would be unintended consequences.

“What I don’t understand is why it isn’t being extended to all housing,” he said.

“Property owners facing an upgrade now have two choices, spend the thousands required to meet the new standards or sell. If they sell, a homeowner can buy without being concerned about standards because they don’t apply.

“So this creates two markets and one buyer has an extra large cost to consider that the other does not and has to factor that into their price. All things being equal the property will stay out of the rental pool until someone who owns it makes the upgrades or an investor is able to purchase it at a price where they can spend the extra money and still cover their costs.”

He said, for people in bigger cities, the cost of upgrading a house would be a small percentage of its value. But elsewhere, the cost could be 5 percent of the price of the house and would take years to recover.

He said he expected to see the end of the “cheap rental”.  “A colleague saw the coming changes, decided stuff it and has completely upgraded all of his properties. Insulation, new carpet, paint, kitchens, heating etc. None of his previous tenants can afford to live there now and have moved elsewhere.”

Butler pointed to proposals that the Healthy Homes standards require landlords to provide heaters able to maintain a temperature of either 18C or 20C.

“There’s an assumption that if you’re in a property that is not of that temperature you’re in an unhealthy environment. But most people don’t have a set temperature unless they set a heat pump. Most people have lived in a wide range of temperatures and have done so for years and have lived healthy lives,” he said.

Claire Leadbetter, policy manager for tenancy and rental housing quality at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development said it was not possible to predict the exact market impact from the Healthy Homes standards and other reforms.

“Many factors will influence whether a landlord chooses to increase the rent of their rental property. It is possible that some landlords could increase the rent they charge a tenant to offset the costs incurred from upgrading their properties.

“If rent is increased to a level that substantially exceeds market rates, a tenant may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a reduction. The RTA reform looks at options to improve this process.”

She said the Warm Up New Zealand (WUNZ) evaluation found the installation of new insulation reduced hospitalizations for occupants, but the incremental gain from heating appliances was small after accounting for the gain provided by insulation.

She said a cost-benefit analysis had been conducted to inform the development of the discussion document on the Healthy Homes Standards, which included the temperature suggestions.

“Heating devices would need to be capable of achieving a minimum indoor temperature in rooms covered by the heating standard. This would not be a requirement to heat to those temperatures.”

A survey in 2015 found that 22 percent of rental properties had no fixed heating compared to 7 percent of owner-occupied.

Susan Edmunds