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Christchurch eco house is passive

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Andrew and Katy Marriott in their “passive house”. It doesn’t require heating or cooling.

Climate change means New Zealanders have to get smarter about energy use. A Christchurch family have chipped in with a new home that’s airtight and requires almost no heating or cooling. WILL HARVIE reports.

Remember that day just before Christmas when temperatures in Christchurch soared past 36 degrees Celsius? There was little wind, people drooped and complained. There seemed to be no respite.

Over at Andrew and Katy Marriott’s new home in Fendalton, inside temperatures were a pleasant 23C. And they didn’t have air conditioning or the heatpump working in reverse. They don’t own a heat pump.

Rather the Marriotts built a “passive house” — a German technique that uses triple-glazed windows, extra thick walls, abundant insulation and other technologies to create an airtight and energy-efficient building. The result is a constant temperature — winter and summer, day and night — of 20-odd degrees.

“We wanted a low-energy house and our architect said he’s never built a passive house before and would we like to go on an adventure with him,” says Andrew Marriott. They did.

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While windows are generally small, the dinning room gets plenty of natural light.

From the outside, their new build is contemporary Fendalton: a 347 square metre, four-bedroom, two-storey weatherboard house hidden down a driveway. Inside, it’s got a clean modern look with hardwood floors, timber window frames and stainless steel appliances. Don’t go looking for a composting toilet, there isn’t one.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

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Passive Housing catches on in Christchurch

Harley Builders is building it’s first Certified Passive house in Fendalton and is keen to encourage interest in the energy-efficient housing option. Certified Passive Houses require both a design review ans post-construction testing to meet the international Passive House certification standard.

Manager Glenn Harley says the key features include a heat recovery ventilation system,, well insulated wall and an airtight structure. The structure maintains indoor air temperatures of around 22 degrees year round.

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Fendalton Passive House

Andrew and Katy Marriott: Fendalton Passive House

We moved to Christchurch post-quakes to help with the rebuild and ended up staying. We wanted our new home to be low-energy and chose to build a Passive House – a German technique that uses triple-glazed windows, extra thick walls, abundant insulation and other technologies to create an airtight and energy-efficient building. The result is a constant temperature — winter and summer, day and night — of 20-odd degrees.

Our electrician recommended we approach Glenn of Harley Builders because of his workmanship.

Of the 6 builders we interviewed we chose Glenn. We got on very well with him and were pleased his price came in the lowest.

We happily recommend Harley Builders to others. Here are some of the reasons why:

Glenn had a very ‘can do’ attitude. We hadn’t decided on the windows upfront and were pleased that Glenn was open to variations.

Glenn was proactive by saying ‘this is going to work’ or ‘I think there is a better way we can do this’. So there was no rework as Glenn and his foreman John – who was excellent – saw the problems before they arose.

We did make some changes to the plans along the way. John and Glenn made the decision-making process easy as they were quietly supportive in the background. Glenn was very accommodating and great in getting tradesmen onto that work very quickly.

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Passive House is a relatively new way of building and some of the plan details needed resolving. Glenn worked through the process to a point where everybody was happy going forward. There are always challenges around the builder – owner – architect triangle.  The relationship just got better and better. Which doesn’t always happen that way around!

A Passive House needs to be airtight and a first test failed on the manufacturing process of a window, something out of Glenn’s control. It highlighted that Glenn’s workmanship was outstanding, that the whole process was managed expertly by him, and that he is an excellent verbal communicator.

We were keen to move into the house as soon as possible as we were living in a pretty substandard rental, but Glenn was adamant that we could not move in until such time as he had got it to an appropriate point. We were disappointed but in hindsight realised that was the best decision not to move in early and really respect Glenn for that.

Our son is a carpenter in Hamilton and came on moving day whilst the builders were still working on-site. He commented that the atmosphere was unusual as it felt like a family and that it was a happy building site.
We were always made to feel welcome on-site and the team respected our values by not swearing and cussing and keeping the music volume turned down.  Prior to open homes for friends and families Glenn’s team would clean up the site on a Friday night.

Any build can be stressful but Harley Builders ensured that the process was manageable and to a certain extent enjoyable.

Our home has functioned very well.  Just prior to Christmas it was 36 degrees outside and 23 degrees inside without the use of an air-conditioner or heat-pump in reverse as we don’t have either.

Glenn has a positive ‘can do’ attitude so along with his faultless workmanship he and his team were the perfect choice to build our dream Passive House. Throughout the process great communication, exceptional problem-solving skills and a clean and tidy worksite were key.