Healthy homes: Big energy upgrades for new build houses from November

Energy upgrades are planned for new homes’ roof, window, wall and underfloor insulation which aim to make them warmer, drier and healthier to live and work in.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment got more than 700 submissions and 3000 responses on the changes, to be phased in from November until later next year.

But Master Builders, the Certified Builders Association and National’s Andrew Bayly want that delayed.

Bayly, National’s building and construction spokesman, said it could add up to $25,000 per house in the sector where consents are being granted to build a record 50,000 homes annually.

But the ministry running the upgrades says the changes will mean better homes and is part of the Government’s building for climate change programme of work.

Bayly said: “The industry estimates $8000 to $15,000 extra will be needed for foundations, around $2000 for wall insulation supplied and installed and $6000 to $8000 for new window joinery and glazing.

“This doesn’t take into account the costs to upgrade equipment, retrain staff and write off old stock.”

The Herald reported last week about the glazing changes, whereby aluminium-framed windows will need to have Argon gas pumped between the double glazing.

David Kelly, Master Builders’ chief executive, also wants the thermal upgrades delayed by a year.

“We support the intent of warm, dry, healthy homes but we’re worried it’s coming in too fast. We’ve already got cost increases and construction inflation is running at 18 per cent annually. The estimate from builders is that all the upgraded standards for new houses could add $25,000/house,” Kelly said.

But Dave Gittings, building performance and engineering manager at the ministry indicated flexibility might be possible.

He acknowledged sector price rises and capacity was stretched but said the revamp was necessary.

“MBIE is fully committed to working alongside the building and construction sector to ensure successful implementation of these important changes,” Gittings said.

“There is no doubt that the sector continues to face material shortages and price increases as a result of the pandemic, global shipping constraints, high commodity prices and record demand for new houses.

“MBIE has convened workshops with industry leaders in the past couple of weeks to get a better understanding of any issues which have developed since last year’s consultation. We will continue work with the sector to determine what further support is required and should a decision need to be made on the transition period, we will communicate this as soon as we can,” Gittings said last week.

Bayly acknowledged that by raising standards, people would need less power to heat and cool homes, which would help minimise greenhouse gas emissions.

Further changes include introducing alternative daylight solutions and weathertightness testing and a verification method for the energy efficiency of HVAC systems, Bayly noted.

National agrees with more energy-efficient warmer, drier, healthier homes.

But it was concerned about introduction time frames and that foundation changes might not give discernible benefits.

“Worse, the increased use of certain products, such as polystyrene in foundations, could in fact be detrimental to the environment,” Bayly said.

Most people in the industry weren’t aware of the implications of the changes, and if they were, they did not know how they were going to make the changes, he said.

“There is a great deal of misunderstanding; particularly concerning is that some large builders are not aware that there are now two ways to assess whether a new house meets the new standards,” he said.

Katrina Bach, Certified Builders’ acting chief executive, also said her entity supported the changes but wanted them delayed.

“Our concerns relate to the ability and capacity of an already pressured and stretched sector to implement these changes in the current timeframe.We believe the transition timeframe needs to be extended to and Government needs to provide better information and education about the changes,” Bach said.

The pressure was severe and came from unprecedented capacity and supply constraints, labour shortages and the pandemic.

“It is also impacting homeowner customers facing spiralling costs. Smaller businesses have less buffer room and this is already impacting on their ability to continue operating,” Bach said.

Brett Francis, of the Window and Glass Association, has expressed support for the glazing upgrades but says it will mean some businesses will have extra costs and need to re-tool their factories.

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