GEARING UP FOR GREEN BUILDING REQUIREMENTS IN THE RESIDENTIAL SECTOR   

Homestar is the environmental rating tool run by the New Zealand Green Building Council for residential dwellings including houses, townhouses and apartments. The proposed Auckland Unitary Plan would require any developments of 5 or more dwellings to achieve a Homestar 6 star rating (a house built to Building Code today would typically achieve about 4 out of 10 on the Homestar scale).

There is, however, one situation where Homestar is being implemented already and on a large scale. For Council’s Special Housing Areas (SHA’s) the plan applies to all homes in these areas. This means that the Homestar provision takes effect immediately. The numbers are becoming serious as we are talking about 39,000 dwellings over the coming years and billions of dollars worth of Industry spending. For more information on the size and location of SHAs, see the link at the end of this article.

This is likely to mean that you are either already working on an SHA, or you are probably going to be working on such a project in the very near future.

The question therefore is: “Are you ready?” and “Are you up to speed with the requirements of Homestar? “

Alex Reiche, a qualified Homestar Professional, Director of The Building Excellence Group and EnviroSpec, has a some useful guidance and advice that can help you ensure a smooth process and the successful delivery of a Homestar 6 star rated project for your Client.

  1. Engage a Homestar Professional or Homestar Assessor on your project early, at least several months before applying for Resource Consent. (a list of Homestar Assessors can be found here http://www.homestar.org.nz/the-journey/certified-assessment). These early meetings and conversations will allow the Assessor to give you a quick overview of the basic Homestar framework and principles and advice on how to think about your design in a manner that will facilitate achieving the required thermal performance requirements for the project (Note, Homestar 6 stars has more stringent thermal requirements than the Building Code)
  2. Register your project with Homestar two weeks before lodging Resource Consent, so you can obtain your Homestar registration numbers for the properties.
  3. Before the design team moves to detailed design, have the project fully reviewed by an Assessor so they can then provide feedback on how your particular project can best achieve the 6 star rating (Homestar is flexible and can be customised to each project).
  4. Take note of the feedback and recommendations from the Homestar Assessor. This will include very specific criteria surrounding the specification of products and materials that must comply with specific performance and environmental criteria. Be sure to take this into account when you and/or the Client discuss material selections.
  5. Ensure you clearly identify the Homestar requirements in any tender documents and to the Main Contractor so they can set up any systems and capacity internally to help deliver important items such as a Site Environmental Management Plan and construction waste recycling targets.
  6. It is highly encouraged that at the time of Building Consent the project obtain an official Design Rating for two reasons:  a) It means every detail has been clearly identified in the drawings and specifications and the project can be passed on in a clean manner to the construction team, and b) the Client will be able to market the project/dwellings as being officially Homestar certified. (Note a Design Rating must be followed by an As-Built rating once the project has been completed)

According Alex Reiche, Homestar is bringing Industry to where it needs to be. He notes that “we should all be encouraging homes to be warmer, drier and have low electricity and water bills. It isn’t even a matter of environmental prowess, it is a matter of common sense and necessity.”

“It is fantastic to see that Homestar has been included in the Auckland draft unitary plan and key organizations are starting to use it as a means of driving improvement in the Industry. It looks like the future for Auckland might be a bright one, so long as people all keep working to ensure good decisions are implemented in a wider city context, focusing on smart development, improved transport and living conditions”.

 

For more on the size and location of SHAs go to  http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/ratesbuildingproperty/housingsupply/Pages/specialhousingareas.aspx
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