How Does the H1 Changes Affect Me. Most of us probably have the experience of growing up in a home where we shivered through the winter and then our houses were incredibly hot during the summer! Most of this can be attributed to the poor standard of our insulation in New Zealand homes before 1978. Back then NZ homes had no requirement for insulation from 1978 to quite recently. Insulation standards were gradually increased but it is argued that New Zealand standards have remained a long way behind similar houses and similar climates then other parts of the world. Recent changes to H1 of the New Zealand building code have set out to address this deficit one of the most remarkable changes has been the requirement to increase the “R value” of insulation in the ceiling from around a 3.6 to 6.6.

While many people will look at these changes and think that they are in some way excessive, those people that have had the benefit of living in a modern house with good quality insulation will never doubt the benefit of building better.

The other key element to understand with these changes to H1, is that while the basic changes can lead to a tick box response to designing a house, these changes are also really about getting designers to think more carefully about the thermal performance of the house with a view to recruit to decreasing the amount of energy, we need to warm our houses.

If the overall energy efficiency of a house increases the amount of energy you need to use to heat your house is going to be reduced because the warmth that you’re creating is actually staying inside your house rather than disappearing out through gaps and cracks and other areas where heat leaks out of.

One of the challenges in New Zealand housing is to address the issue of heat loss through our glazing. A large window that allows you to enjoy the views, plus the warmth of the sun to heat the house, that same glazing can also allow heat to escape. As our building knowledge increases, we can see the enormous impact quality glazing has on the overall performance of a house. What we aim for is a home that is warm, dry, comfortable and energy efficient, glazing is a key component to the overall thermal performance of your home.

Over many years of discussing this really important issue, in particularly on my NewstalkZB radio program, we discuss that we are wanting our houses to be warmer, drier, more comfortable, I will often get a response along the lines of; “well why don’t you just harden up! it was OK for us as kids, we survived, it can’t be that bad”.

Recent research and there are a lot of it has shown that in fact our houses are not that great. Many New Zealanders report their houses being damp plus they have constant mold within the house. These problems occur out of a complex combination of a lot of issues but increasingly we are starting to look at all of the elements that go to making up a good house and in amongst the mix we are starting to focus on the quality of our glazing.

For many years, I lived in an old villa, many of the windows had their original glass, this was somewhere between two and three millimeters thick. Overtime I’ve also had the opportunity to live in a house that has quality double glazing and more thermally efficient windows. I can assure you, that I know which one makes me feel more comfortable plus allows me to live inside the house, without putting an enormous amount of energy into keeping that house warm.

I get a sense too that New Zealanders have reached a tipping point in our understanding of the dynamics, that create a comfortable home and as more of us experience, what it’s like, to be in a house that is more energy efficient, that keeps us warm.

When we’re renovating or restoring an old house, this is where we can make a difference in the thermal envelope. Look at the insulation, the current windows, where can we add real value. For those people thinking about a new home, this information could inform your decisions around what you buy. When looking at a new home, or a newish home, are you able to determine the type of insulation, the quality of the joinery, the R value of the glazing? Does the home have a home star rating. Soon are choices about the home, will be based more on science, a good building science, rather than superficial appearance.

From the government’s point of view the introduction of the new H1 changes is a response to the challenge to reduce carbon emissions by 40%. A simple approach, is to increase the energy efficiency of New Zealand houses, thereby reducing the amount of energy we require to heat or cool the home.

If that means a warmer, dryer, comfortable, energy efficient with R or Low E glazing, which intern will lower my energy bill, I can’t see the downside!

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