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Warmer homes at what cost?


Simon Herbst

With new building regulations on the way, Wairarapa homes could be warmer and drier – but industry experts fear this will come with a higher price tag.

Under the Building Code, New Zealand was divided into three zones based on average air temperature data – with each zone having its own home building specifications for insulation.

Last year, the Building Code was amended, replacing the requirements with six new climate zones – which will come into effect in November 2022.

Wairarapa would fall into zone four which would require updates to new builds to maximise energy efficiency.

Gareth Norris, managing director of Jennian Homes Wairarapa, said the new zones were necessary.

He said new upgrades to home builds would include thermally broken window frames and low E and argon gas windows to create better insulation barriers and regulate temperatures inside the home.

“Ceiling insulation would be increased and we may have to put thermal bridging in the perimeter of the foundations,” Norris said.

Paul Southey, director of A1 Homes, says the changes to the Building Code come at a bad time for the building industry. PHOTO/FILE

Paul Southey, director of A1 Homes, was concerned the new zones would “put a lot of pressure” on the building industry – but agreed the changes “weren’t necessarily a bad thing”.

“In the Wairarapa region, it will affect the insulation in homes, which will need to be denser and thicker in the ceilings and the wall cavities,” Southey said.

“From a warmth point of view, it’s a good thing.”

However, both he and Norris said the new climate zones were premature – and higher costs would hurt an industry attempting to recover from covid-19, inflation, and supply chain issues.

“It’s just not a good time,” Southey said.

Southey was “doubtful” the changes would be practical or feasible – but he said there was no question they would require materials that don’t currently exist.

“They don’t manufacture certain materials that meet the requirements. From a research and development perspective, there’s a lot of work to be done.

“We still need more information so we can pass it on to our clients, manufacturers, and our crews on site.”

He said prices for housing materials in Wairarapa were expected to soar come November.

“For our clients, the cost of building [their own home] will go through the roof.”

Norris said the regulation change came at a time of economic and supply-chain crunch.

“Although the current financial climate is a factor, the construction industry is facing challenges in its supply chain and capacity now,” he said.

“This is the real reason we’re lobbying to get [the Building Code changes] delayed.”

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