Sustainable Habitat Construction

Building a Better Way

Simple Three bedroom Solar House, $180,000 - Team Dunedin


Simple Three bedroom Solar House, $180,000 - Team Dunedin

Nothing to see here... this stylish home is"normal" as possible while containing a widevariety of accessible and sustainable products and services. Proof that sustainable building is within everyone’s reach today

Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
Members: 6

Vision for More Sustainable Housing

Otago Polytechnic-based team hammer home the sustainable message

Can living more sustainably be this easy, look this good and be affordable? According to the Dunedin designers and builders of a sustainable home from the Otago Polytechnic, the answer is a resounding YES!

From the outside, the 2009 Otago Polytechnic student-built house auctioned for charity appears slightly different in colour, shape and orientation. But the real difference lies deeper as behind the scenes, a huge amount of work has gone into making the house into a more sustainable home for a ‘typical’ Otago family.

Open Homes and other exhibitions:
Open Homes for the auction house, which is an invitation buyers and the general public:
• October 28 & 29, November 4 & 5, 11 & 12, 18 & 19, 25 & 26 Nov at 5.30
• October 31 and November 1, 7 & ,8, 14 & 15, 21 & 22 at 2pm

Auction Date:
Saturday November 28, 2009

The staff, students and businesses that make up ‘Team Dunedin’ have rallied together to complete this house for the Sustainable Habitat Challenge (SHaC 09), a competition that challenges tertiary teams to design and build sustainable homes for their own community. Its aim is to make ideas and methods for low-energy, low-resource housing a reality for New Zealand and demonstrate that a more sustainable life is practical, achievable and desirable.

The project has been managed by Ian Currie of Arrow International who donated his time in order to bring a worthy project to fruition.

“I wanted to support this Polytechnic project, and saw potential for a range of outcomes” Ian explains. “In particular, I wanted to optimise educational outcomes for student. Then there’s the opportunity to integrate education and business, and of course we want to ensure a good outcome from the auction.”

The team started from the position of wanting to build a house suitable for an average Otago family, particularly in terms of heating and energy efficiency. It needed to take into account cold climates and therefore insulation and passive energy were very important to the design. It has a 6 1/2 star HERS rating, which is akin to the energy star ratings on whiteware, but for homes. According to the HERS rating for an average Dunedin pre-78 built house is 2 - 3 stars.

“At its centre is the aim to design and build a home which will appeal to a common denominator, and while appearing ‘normal’, in fact encompasses a variety of accessible and sustainable materials and services” says Team Dunedin spokesperson D’Arcy Dalzell. “If we achieve our goals, good use of conventional building techniques means the house will be affordable to buy. It will cost less to run because of its efficient use of energy, good use of the sun, and good insulation and state of the art windows. It will have minimised waste through good planning and be a pleasure to live in because of good design, some great interior work including efficient use of space.” The house interiors have been designed by Otago Polytechnic graduates Jackie Ryder and Kate Marshall, also with sustainable materials in mind.
Find more photos like this on Sustainable Habitat Challenge Any project has its own parameters, and for Team Dunedin these were obvious from the get-go. The house needed to fit on the back of a truck (it is after all, a transportable house) which affects materials used, and obviously its size. “And another important and positive aspect was that it needed to be simple enough to for our Certificate in Carpentry students to build” says Programme Manager for Building Graham Burgess. “Any person who enters the house will agree that our students have done a spectacular job.” The SHaC House will go under the hammer on Saturday November 28, 2pm. For open home details visit

Sustainability by stealth

Team Dunedin from Otago Polytechnic set out to see how sustainability could be
integrated into the education of getting our homes designed and built. The brief
was to create a non-sacrificial home for the average Dunedin family where the
sustainability was ‘invisible’ with no composting toilet in sight!

In March 2008, Team Dunedin accepted the Sustainable
Habitat Challenge – to design, fund and build their
idea of an affordable and desirable home for a Dunedin
family. Team Dunedin’s build aimed to be resource
light, community driven and education-minded whilst
being guided by the Beacon Pathway High Standard of
Sustainability (HSS).

So, how did we rise to the challenge?
By having a team of people that were willing to ‘give
it a go’ and a group of supportive local businesses
who suppoerted the Otago Polytechnic’s sustainable
Our story involves the following components:
1. Does a Dunedin family really want a
composting toilet?!
2. Simple is Sweet
3. Building with education in mind – and not just
the students!
4. Good design = Good living
5. Window-tastic!
6. Flicking the Green Switch
7. When the Heat is on
8. Warm and happy on the inside
9. Waste Not, Want Not.
10. It’s not cheap as chips, but it is value for money
11. Recipe for a Sustainable Community
12. Sustainability Success?

Are today’s families ready for composting toilets? Our vision of sustainability.
Early on Team Dunedin’s design and development
stage, it was clear that the vision for the SHaC house
was one that your average Dunedin family would want
to purchase and live in. After all, the house would go
under the hammer with any profits going to a local
charity (as its predecessors had done).

The key was desirability, but with a sustainable twist.
Most importantly the house needed to be affordable.
This vision of desirability to the average Dunedinite
played a major role in shaping the house, its design
and the materials used.

The guiding mantra was ‘Sustainable Living without
the composting toilet!’, that is a house that would offer
lower resource living ‘by stealth’. Good design was
critical, as was efficiency with energy and space. Good
design would also allow for very Dunedin-specific elements
(often climate related), and offer potential to
expand spacially, and sustainably, if required. Our design
therefore is compact and sensible.

Simple is sweet
The Team Dunedin house was never going to be ‘edgy’.
It is essentially a long box, with holes for windows and
doors – a description which is in no way meant to de-
tract from the house itself thanks to its roof line! With
a number one requirement of the house to be built
by Otago Polytechnic carpentry students, the house
needed to comply with Building Code 3604 (that is,
no ‘alternative solutions’ to be submitted. These require
extra engineering reports in order to satisfactorily
prove the performance of the design). The number
two requirement was that the house could fit on the
back of a truck! Simple.

Building with education in mind – and not just the students!
Team Dunedin have built a home with education in
mind. Teaching the next generation of builders and designers
about sustainable actions and materials was
high on the agenda, but it has been a good education
for Otago Polytechnic staff too.

SHaC fits well with the Otago Polytechnic commitment
for each of its graduates to be a sustainable citizen
in their chosen field. Our goal is that every graduate
may think and act as a “sustainable practitioner”. It
is currently rolling out ‘Education for Sustainability’
throughout its programme areas.

So something like SHaC should have been right up our
alley, right?! Well, ‘kind of’, is the truthful answer.

What we have found with our programmes is that both
teachers and students are researching, doing, learning
and teaching – it’s a two-way process which is kind of
nice! Team Dunedin staff members – those from Carpentry,
Design and Horticulture - with a greater knowledge
of sustainable materials and practice shared it
amongst colleagues, as well as students.

With Team Dunedin there was an attempt to bring in
as many different disciplines as possible to widen the
SHaC relevance. Energy modelling of the house was
undertaken by University of Otago Physics students
very early on in the project, lead by Maria Callau.
Film-making students from the Natural History Filmmaking
course also at the University of Otago spent
a considerable amount of time developing short webbased
videos on the Team Dunedin house under the
mentoring of Carthew Neal from Cream Media.

In the end, the Carpentry students were the bulk of
the students involved, with Diploma in Architectural
Draughting students developing the designs into CAD
drawing. Design students chipped in too. Bachelor of
Design (Communication) students involved in logo development
and graphic work and Bachelor of Design
(Product) students creating sustainable lighting sympathetic
to the project. Moreover, Bachelor of Design
(Interior) graduates Kate Marshall and Jackie Ryder
played a critical role in developing the interiors of the
SHaC house using knowledge they had acquired in a
class project the previous year.

With sustainability for education a priority for the
Otago Polytechnic, it is hoped that this type of realworld
collaboration and experience will grow within
and between departments. With education about sus-
tainability in our community also a strategic direction,
Team Dunedin’s communication aimed to play a vital
role in educating other Otago Polytechnic staff, and
the Dunedin community about sustainable practices.
In this sense, a major achievement was made by working
with stakeholders and business partners, and the
Team Dunedin sponsors to devise and utilise more
sustainable methods and materials.

Good Design = Good living

The successful home is founded in its design and the
sum of its parts. The Team Dunedin home benefits
from both passive and ‘active’ design – in terms of
how the house will enjoy benefits of passive energy,
but perhaps more importantly, how the house will respond
to the people who make it a home.

Orientation to the north, and the maximisation of the
important Dunedin sun were the reasons for windows
along the entire breadth of both living spaces (living
and dining) and all three bedrooms. The kitchen, bathroom
and laundry, by proxy were designed for the ‘dark
side’. This has other benefits too – with all plumbing
occurring one side of the house, waste, plumbing costs
and related resources have been kept to a minimum.
Doors strategically placed throughout the house’s corridor
line will help to keep aspects of the houses contained.
A small foyer area welcomes people into the
front door, from a covered and sheltered porch area
and allows spaces with space for coats and boots, and
another door leads into the main open living space.
This ‘double door’ acts as a physical barrier between
the inclement outdoors, and the heated areas, allowing
the living space to remain at a more consistent
heat, and is a design feature found in many of New
Zealand public spaces such as museum and galleries,
and shopping malls. In the world’s cooler climates,
this feature is common and is well-suited to Dunedin’s
cooler climate, yet a feature rarely seen in our homes.
Another door at the passage is placed to keep heat
(and noise) in main the living space.

The roof design was one of the more controversial aspects
of the house. A butterfly pitch at 12°, the roof
has been designed with an internal 1.5 meter butynol
gutter. This allows for a number of things – a greater
sense of height in the living spaces, allowing for a
higher indoor environmental quality, and with the internal
gutter on a 1.5° pitch to the outer gutter, an
opportunity to collect all of the houses rainwater from
two potential sources into a rainwater collection tank.
Capturing and recycling of grey water has not been
included in this house, but this design represents the
opportunity for further developments to do so in the
future by the houseowners themselves.

To every houseowner and designer trying to mitigate
heat and energy loss, windows are just considered as
big holes! Even black holes in terms of energy loss if
you don’t get it right. (Energywise website)

Energy loss is more often than not attributed to loss
through windows, however the sparkling windows in
this SHaC house are the jewels on the crown of the
Team Dunedin house. Using thermally broken windows
with argon glass from Team Dunedin sponsor CHP, the
house takes advantage of technology so fresh it was
only launched on the market in early September this

ThermAcolour© technology is new to the market (therma,
due to its thermal qualities and colour because
it is possible to have two colours to suit the colour
schemes on both the inside and outside). (Specs) The area
between the two panes are also pressurised with argon
gas. Once flushed with normal air, it has been discovered
that argon, a dense gas that occurs naturally, has
a lower thermal conductance than air (by minimising
convection or air currents within the small areas between
the two panes – hot air at the top, cool air down
below). Simply speaking, this means increased energy
efficiency, and according to Custom Home Products
Manager Derek Little, this equates to10 – 15% more
efficiency than double glazing alone. Argon is inexpensive,
nontoxic, nonreactive, clear, and odorless.

Flicking the green switch
Otago Polytechnic-built homes have long enjoyed the
support of local electricians Aotea Electric who were
keen to share its sustainable practices. For its technicians,
the process of installing power has become
more energy efficient.

Aotea Electric is a Greenswitch Certified – GreenSmart,
as a company there are aware of their responsibility
to help people reduce their energy consumption
and costs. Greenswitch electricians can recommend
and install energy efficient lighting systems, which will
reduce your energy costs and power consumption.
EcoSmart Electricians are focused on investing in the
best energy efficient products and services to suit
your home, business and budget. These products and
services will save power, save money, ease pressure on
our environment

Philips eco-friendly bulbs were installed and halogens
down 35 watts, from 50 watts, “Same output for less
consumption” says Aotea Manager Dave Brown. “What
we’ve really put into this house is energy efficiency. We
are pleased to offer support because it is a community
project and we are also keen to support the Otago
Polytechnic.” Night lights have been installed in the
passage way to help young families at night.

Warm and happy on the inside
The Dunedin housing stock is very obviously not suited
to its climate. Any visitor to Dunedin will no doubt leave
feeling chilled to the bone. While the weather can be
an easy scapegoat, much of the blame can be placed
fairly on the unsuitable building stock. Cute but unin-sulated
Victorian villas, brick bungalows of the 1930s,
student rental accommodation, well-constructed state
homes make up most of Dunedin’s homes, however
most of these had no or little original insulation and
their design made the homes draughty and difficult to
heat.iv Villas would traditionally favour the road view,
rather the passive solar gains from the sun, or situated
in areas with poor solar capacity.v Many homes also
carry ageing features such as rotting windows and
glass panes, and contribute to the low average indoor
temperature of 13.5°.

The Team Dunedin SHaC house contains a high amount
of insulation (provided by Tasman Insulation NZ who
use up to 80% of recycled glass to make Pink Batts).
Higher than average beam heights in the living spaces
required thicker walls and therefore larger cavities
which were filled with insulation. As such, the outer
walls have a R3.8 rating, the floors R2.6 and the R5.0
in the ceiling. Heating is supplied by an LG heatpump,
kindly donated by Rexel/LG. There is also room in the
lounge for a pellet fire if the owners wish to upgrade
their heating source.

One of the largest improvements to the Team Dunedin
house is indoor environmental quality. But what is that
and how can it be measured? Scientifically speaking,
Indoor Environmental Quality’ relates to average temperatures
of a home – the Beacon HSS (High Standards
of Sustainability) explain that living areas which
are 18° from 5pm.

The answer also lies in the way people/families use
the space and moreover, enjoy using it. Whilst this may
seem very unscientific, it does boil down to how we
‘feel’ when we enter a space and the quality we place
on this experience. One could argue that there is much
value in this, and it can often be measured in a financial
value (a well designed and lived in/cared for
house will have a higher re-sale value). An unscientific
analysis of visitors to the SHaC house vs the other
‘undesigned’ homes sitting next to them might yield
interesting results.

Interior decorating of the house were developed by
Bachelor of Design (Interior) graduates Kate Marshall
and Jacqui Ryder. Recommendations by the pair took
into account budget, sustainability and the fact that
the house was a transportable one. Flooring laminate
‘Jatoba’ from the Van Gogh range of Karndean flooring
has been recommended for the entrance, living,
kitchen and utility spaces with a sisal carpet suggested
for the passage and bedrooms.

Thermally-lined drapes will be used for the main windows
in the bedrooms with roller blinds recommended
for the higher windows. Lined drapes will provide good
thermal properties in preventing heat loss, and the
synthetic content of the fabric will provide a defence
against the effects of strong sunlight.

Waste Not, Want Not
Otago Polytechnic Carpentry Lecturers Graham Burgess
and Matt Thompson have been the driving force
behind the build. Each year the department builds three
houses used as ‘test’ cases for carpentry students and
each is on-sold to the highest bidder at an annual auction.
Together they have undertaken a number of sustainable
processes in the SHaC build to develop new
skills and pass these onto their students, and have in
particular been looking at some of the waste management
provisions on the construction site.

In a world where both the resources are dwindling, as
are budgets, waste minimisation is an important criteria
in any building project – even moreso one in the
education sector. Money saving is a skill any client will
also appreciate and is therefore also a vital component
for our students to grasp.

One of the reasons the Otago Polytechnic have been so
involved in full-size house building (rather than building
separate components as per unit standards) is that
the class materials budget is cut by 50% and costs are
recovered by on-selling a transportable house (like any
person, building their own home and selling it after a
period of time).

More specifically, waste is kept to a minimum through
smart and well-planned use of timber, weatherboards
and insulation. All timber was ordered in selected
lengths for minimal waste as opposed to pack lots and
all usable off cuts were redirected to other projects
e.g. temporary piles for other houses. With the exception
of wood for the rafters, it was all H1.2 treated, so
it could be burnt safely as firewood.

The use of Linea weatherboards means virtually no
off cuts because of the clever joining method and in
general. The weatherboards were set out so there were
no gaps below and above the windows to cut down on
sealants and cover boards. The Dulux Weathershied
X10 paint system will reduce ongoing maintenance
costs, and Otago Trade Sales Manager for Dulux Janet
Laing says “It’s MaxiFlex stretch technology gives
a tough flexible finish for long life protection from the
harsh New Zealand sun and it has a 10-year guarantee
against blistering, peeling and flaking.”

Insulation cut offs were inserted into internal walls
and Gib Board, roofing material and flashings were
ordered to length to minimise waste. Currently there
is no recycling of Gib Board in Dunedin, but the Team
Dunedin is aware that is possible in Christchurch and

In terms of building a house on the Polytechnic premises
(close to classrooms and administration) as it
has done so twelve years, and this has the benefits
of cutting down using many vehicles to transport the
students around the city and also providing a display
for other classes in our vicinity a working building site

6 ½ star HERS rating
HERS is a new system recently adopted in New Zealand
that tests the energy efficiency of your home. If
you are building your home, for a small fee of about
$300, aspects of your home such as window size,
home orientation, materials and insulation. At the design
stage, aspects of the building, design, materials
and orientation can be altered to maximise energy efficiency.
It also takes into account two of your houses
largest energy guzzlers – room and water heating. For
example, a concrete floor will capture and slowly release
a great deal of solar energy – and will be a more
energy efficient choice over a carpeted floor.

Why is a HERS rating useful? Well, in terms of building
a new home, it will allow you to maximise your efficiency
which means lower energy bills and less burden
on the country’s energy system. It will also help those
renovating to make better design choices.

In terms of Team’s Dunedin SHaC house, a 6 ½ star
rating offered by Juan Puricelli of Waste Solutions
means an excellent standard of efficiency, particularly
when compared to a standard Dunedin house which is
normally (2 - 3 stars) and ‘usual’ houses built by Otago
Polytechnic Carpentry students (4 1/2 stars).For more
information about HERS ratings, and to locate a HERS
assessor in your region, visit:

It’s not cheap as chips, but it is value for money
The vision of the Team Dunedin house was always to
build a home that would represent affordability. The
measure of success in our world is often a financial
one, and therefore needs to be addressed in its goals.
For anyone investing significant amounts into a family
home, they need to be assured of a number of things;
Does it suit my purpose? How much will it cost me
to run? Will I get my money back (and more) when I
sell it? Team Dunedin, is also encouraging prospective
buyers to ask: Will this house encourage less reliance
on the earth’s resources?

Quantity Surveyors Rawlinsons, who have been working
closely with Team Dunedin have supplied us with
an estimate of worth. With the gross floor area of
the SHaC house 128m2 the Rawlinsons Construction
Handbook “standard quality” house would be $1,425/
m2 which would bring the “build cost” of the standard
house up to $182,400. If the “green” element of the
Team Dunedin SHaC house increases the build cost by
20% the m2 rate would be $1,710 and therefore the
build cost would be in the region if $219,000.
Latest information from Quotable Value New Zealand
sees that the average house price for a Dunedin home
is $254,619vii, so our SHaC house is well within the affordability
range. 75% of houses sold were below the
$300,000 range.

In terms of financial affordability, the house sits well
within an obtainable range for most Dunedin families.
This does not take into account wider aspects of affordability,
including money saved on energy, and
emotional and health well being, from living in a well
constructed and well insulated home.viii

Future Proofing
While it is difficult to stay one step ahead of future
trends, there are aspects of the Team Dunedin SHaC
house which respond to future requirements. Each
room contains data outlets for computer access, and
in terms of design, careful attention was given to the
ways in which the house could be expanded in the future,
with a room, carport or garage. Covered spaces
at the front and the rear could be developed for outdoor
storage for bikes and wood by the owners, and
an area in the open lounge is also free for the future
addition of log burner, or ideally a pellet fire.
Transportable raised garden beds have also been included
with the house which will allow the owners to
create a kitchen garden no matter the soil type.
vii Quotable Value, “Property Values returning to 2008
levels”, Monday October 5, 2009.

viii cites that a Dunedin home
will take approximately 3 years to receive payback from
investments in insulation and doubleglazing (basically, largest
effects of the 2007 amendments to the Building Code).

Recipe for a Sustainable Community
Does sustainable practice in building and design support
a sustainable community? Or is it people within
the neighbourhood, undertaking a more sustainable
existence, that creates a low impact community. And
isn’t a sustainable community more about relationships,
well-being and more often than not, having a
metaphorical hub (like a post office or a call to arms,

The argument that a house alone can support a sustainable
community is fraught, as the house relies on
its occupants to treat it, and its surroundings with respect.
As our house is up for auction, Team Dunedin
is now relying on Metro realty, our auction and real
estate sponsor to sell the arguments for being part of
a more sustainable community.

There is another sense of community to which the
judges are probably not referring to when they assess
the sense of community, but that is the community
that is created by team of people – professionals, students,
tertiary organisations, businesses and other
volunteers. In many ways the Team Dunedin SHaC
house has created a sense of pride and community
with those who have taken part in its production. The
road hasn’t been a smooth one, but each person has
walked away with a sense of having learned something
and worked together on a large and sometimes overwhelming

Sustainability Success?
Using Beacon’s High Standard of Sustainability to determine
whether or not the Team Dunedin SHaC house
has been a success is helpful benchmark in terms of
the quality of the house. What the SHaC project has
done for the Otago Polytechnic, and Team Dunedin is
to launch further challenges to our current and future
builders, home designers and importantly the occupants
of our homes – you and I. The biggest challenge
of all is not in the way we build and design our homes,
but is the way we ultimately consume less of the planet’s
resources on a day-to-day basis. That is the real
sustainable habitat challenge.

Inhouse Magazine?

Visitors to Otago Polytechnic who are familiar with the student-built houses auctioned for charity in the previous two years could be forgiven for being slightly surprised by the home that has been taking shape on campus over the last few months. This year’s house appears higher, slightly larger and the rooms are oriented differently. And that’s only from the outside. Behind the scenes, a huge amount of work has gone into making the house into an ‘ideal’ family home for Otago residents.

Early in 2008, Otago Polytechnic made a decision to enter a Dunedin Team in the Sustainable Habitat Challenge (SHaC09), a competition that challenges tertiary teams to design and build sustainable homes for their own community. Its aim is to make ideas and methods for low-energy, low-resource housing a reality for New Zealand and demonstrate that a more sustainable life is practical, achievable and desirable. It was decided that a team of designers, builders, quantity surveyors and architects would design and draft a house, with the assistance of students, and the finished plans would be executed by a team of carpentry students instead of their usual charity house project. The plan made sense – after all, the $200,000 proceeds from the last two charity auctions have been redirected straight back into Otago-based charities. In terms of social sustainability at least, the project was already on the right track.

The team started from the position of wanting to build a house suitable for an average Otago family, particularly in terms of heating and energy efficiency. As a result, the house is designed to be oriented in a specific way onto a plot, so that solar-gain is maximised and the house has been heavily insulated. Ergon Gas-filled, thermally-broken windows (supplied at discount by Custom Home Products (CHP Ltd) have been used. Once solar hear is absorbed into the house, there’s no place for it to escape! In addition, heating is provided by a heatpump (donated by Rexel through Aotea Electric). The outcome is that the building is suitable to be placed in the highest possible wind and snow-loading zone in Otago, and has a 6.5 star HERS (Home Energy Rating) rating (with 4 stars being considered ‘good’).

The dimensions of the house have also meant that wastage was minimised during construction, even though, due to the increased size, more materials were required.
“Additional framing was required because of the heights and more internal/external cladding and the frame is larger to accommodate the insulation” explains Graham Burgess, Programme Manager for Building at Otago Polytechnic. “However all of the timber has been ordered at specified lengths so the wastage factor has been extremely low. There was definitely a lot of timber, but very little waste. “

Consideration has also been given to the appliances and equipment installed in the house and the project has continued to find support from local businesses, who have been enthusiastic about the sustainability element.

“This year’s project is a totally different project from previous years, and one we’re enthusiastic about” says Dave Brown from sponsor Aotea Electric. “It contains more data outlets, and we’ve been looking at the technical side of providing computer access in every room. The halogens inside the house are down to 35 watts from 50, but you still get the same output for that lower consumption. We have also installed three night-lights in the passage-way to help young families at night.

“This year and last we have used the Enviro2 range of paints on the interiors” adds Janet Lang from Sponsor Dulux who donated all the paint. All of the painting work has been done through the team at the Dunedin Training Centre, enthusiastic supporters of the project for three years. “Enviro2is a premium very low odour acrylic interior paint range” Janet explains. “Low VOC content creates much lower emissions and airborne VOC concentrations during application and drying, resulting in very little odour and earlier reoccupation of area after painting.”

The support of the charity house sponsors has been fantastic and, as per previous years, allows the Otago Polytechnic team to maximise the money donated to charity. The sponsors include Placemakers who has supplied a range of building materials and arranged supply of the insulation at cost and cladding. Kitchens for Less has again supplied a full kitchen package and Fisher and Paykel, kitchen and laundry appliances. The team from Aotea Electric have wired the house using electrical fittings from Schneider Electric and lighting supplied by Phillips. Active Furnishings have been working with interior design graduates to supply the soft furnishings in the house. Roofing Solutions have supplied the roofing materials at half price, Bedpost have supplied a beautiful bedroom package valued at $2,000. Barry Dell Plumbing has provided the plumbing labour using fixtures from Edward Gibbons, who have also donated a solar panel for the house. Bramwell Scaffolding lent the Polytechnic scaffolding for the duration – something not normally required in the standard carpentry builds. Fulton Hogan will again transport the house to the successful bidder’s section within of the city.

“Having been in Dunedin and Otago for 113 years it’s important that we put something back into the community particularly during these tougher times” explains Richard Daniell of Wrens who have donated approximately 50 hours labour, along with all the materials to complete the plasterboard stopping portion of the house.”

“Aside from the auction, we hope that this project will provide the example that things can change in our lives without scarifying our standard of living” say’s D’Arcy. “There is a more responsible and conscious way of managing our resource and it is essential to do so, we should therefore aim to take action as soon as possible. Hopefully this would have a positive impact on other sectors of society and together NZ can move towards a more sustainable place to live in showing that changes can start from home.”

Interior Design

Two recent Otago Polytechnic graduates are addressing the challenges of selecting features for the interior of the property. While sustainable design is a key consideration for the interior of the house under the terms of the challenge, the graduates must also address the practical requirements of the house that is, after all, designed to be transportable, functional, built to a strict budget and be an exercise in practical education for students.

Physiotherapist Jackie Ryder and university Researcher Kate Marshall returned to study Otago Polytechnic’s Bachelor of Design (Interiors) when it launched in 2006. Admittedly ‘non-greenie’ the pair found unexpected inspiration in the possibilities of sustainable practice in an industry that, at first glance, appeared to lack any social conscience at all.
“I think during our three-year programme sustainability became more prevalent around us” says Jackie. “It’s such a buzz word at the moment. Previously I had never associated it with design, or at least not consciously. I think during the programme we were made aware of how designers can make a difference. It played quite a big part.”

In their final year, the women embarked upon a project designing a residential hall that incorporated environmentally friendly processes and practice into both the build and the finished product. A requirement of the brief was to educate future residents about treading lightly on earth.

“We had to design the entire building right from the beginning” explains Kate. “This included the exterior and interior using sustainable products and building processes. The elements that we’ve incorporated into the design are intended to change the way people actually live.

“It was a huge learning curve actually. You’re making choices between what’s available and what’s sustainable. There are some products overseas that are probably more sustainable in terms of how they are produced or what they are made of, but by the time you calculate in the carbon footprint and how much it costs to transport that material here it actually loses some of its sustainable value.”

When the SHaC09 project came up at Otago Polytechnic, Jackie and Kate, having demonstrated such an interest in sustainable design, were approached to carry out some work. The pair readily agreed, envisaging a wide brief that would allow them to fully explore re-using, recycling, durability and creating healthy environments with minimal emissions. Initial ideas even including an interior fit-out made entirely of second-hand products. The brief has, over time, become narrower, as the pair work with the products and structure available to them.

“Many things were already set in place when we joined the project, and we’ve come in more to look at the decorating” explains Jackie. “So far we’ve consulted regarding the colour scheme, window joinery and roof. We’re in the process of looking at colour samples for the interior and have visited [sponsors] Kitchens for Less to see what’s available in the package there.

“Kate has met with Aotea Electric about lighting options. We’re looking at different options including environmentally friendly lamps. I’ve also met on-site with Active Furnishers to discuss the best options for insulating windows – it would be nice to use drapes made with natural fibres.”

Jackie and Kate are looking into including some additional sustainable or environmentally friendly elements into the house. Options they are considering at the moment include a bench top made of locally sourced Macrocarpa from a sustainably managed forest, and the opportunity to lay some wooden floors. Jackie has also met with a New Zealand supplier of hemp fabrics and is exploring how these may be used in the window decorations.

“There are a lot of environmentally friendly products and materials out there now, but it can take a bit longer to source them” says Jackie. “If they’re not available in Dunedin they can generally be sourced in New Zealand or overseas, but of course you must take into account where the product comes from. People today are a lot more aware of the manufacturing process – from raw materials to production, the longevity of a product and its after-life. Does take a bit more work to source products.”

“Sustainable products do generally tend to be more expensive” adds Kate. “I guess that’s due to supply and demand. You can mass produce a lot of them or there’s less demand for the product so the cost is a bit higher. I think this will change over time, the more people that want it and use will make it cheaper over time.”

“There are definitely a lot more people out there prepared to spend more to get quality products that are made in New Zealand” says Jackie. “Well it would be good to think so anyway!”

For Jackie and Kate, on e of the best parts of working with the SHaC09 team is the opportunity to meet some of the suppliers in town and see the results of some of their work fall in to place.

“We’re graduates and we haven’t had a lot of experience so any project like this is good for us” says Jackie. “Just to see something get built is good, rather than working on a class assignment that can’t ever be made. It’s good to see a project come to fruition.”


House Design
The largest largest limiting parameter to our project and build was the fact that the house is a transportable one. As such, we needed to cancel out ‘ideal’ sustainable solutions to services and design such as:
• Concrete floors
• Ground Source Heat Pump
• A deck the length of the ‘sunny side’ which is a supplier of shade in peak sunlight hours.
It also effected the materials we could use for the interiors, such as no tiles in the kitchen/bathroom and laundry and underfloor insulations.

Once it was recognized that a ground source heatpump could not be used, Team Dunedin swung backwards and forwards regarding the heating of the house. Pellet fire? Heatpump? Or what else exists out there to heat a family home? The reality for most New Zealanders is that a heat pump is the most affordable option, and if power is sourced from ‘green’ or carbon neutral sources can be a very efficient way to keep warm.

So there are no ‘news breaking’ stories here. Team Dunedin opted for a heat pump over a pellet fire as it was more affordable (we were offered a heatpump through Rexel andLG). Also, there is a perception that pellets are not consistently available (and another person mentions that pellet fires ‘make a hell of a racket’.) Perhaps this is perception?

There is a line in the sand that needed to be drawn for the house in terms of what materials were purchased, with almost a $0 budget.

Communication – Film-making
A project like SHaC requires the devotion of a number of different people, undertaking a number of different tasks, more often than not in their own time and for no money.

Will financially the project was limited, staff resource at the Otago Polytechnic has been limited too.

Working with existing sponsors
Team Dunedin’s SHaC house is the third house in which the Otago Polytechnic has worked with with sponsors in order to fund their build. This is both a positive and a challenge – we are strengthening existing relationships and putting a twist on our sponsorship relationship by asking for more sustainable products. Happily, our sponsors understand our motives and are happy to oblige. Without them, our build could not go ahead – but will aspects of ‘sustainability’ be compromised?

Working an education environment
Another of our challenges was working within the parameters of the education environment. With a team made up of members who each had their own personal objectives (architects, lecturers, sponsors, giving experience of the 3604 code etc) it has been difficult to match objectives, as well as timelines. While attempts were made at many levels to include as many disciplines as possible it became increasingly obvious that energy, as well as departmental assignments, structures and low staff levels meant that it was really difficult to get interaction. A future attempt will seek to overcome these perhaps!

Working with staff and students
How do you motivate people who do not necessarily have sustainability has a goal, or even an interest? The difficulty of motivating staff and students to become more ‘sustainable’ in their thoughts and practices cannot be underestimated.

Team Findings

Otago Polytechnic Certificate in Carpentry Level 4 students traditionally build three houses a year. They have done this for twelve years, and while the SHaC house was definitely outside the average budget used for their houses, this year this was again offset by the generous sponsorship of materials and services. It was hoped that the sustainable features might welcome a higher price from buyers and raise the profile of sustainable building for the Dunedin public and students.

Sustainability, for now, does mean short term expense
Undertaking a sustainable build does stretch the resources! This is for many reasons... the need to acquire new knowledge, building becomes more time consuming as you work with architectural design. But the benefits also sine through – you do learn more, and are therefore able to pass more onto students (New Zealand’s future builders) and undertaking new challenges help to see new perspectives.

A new design is as good as ... holiday?
Building staff overseeing the build have called the build ‘unconventional’ but ‘refreshing’. A design that initially seemed too ambitious, with amendments became something more realistic. Next time more emphasis would be put into planning and the house would again be orientated away from the sun – otherwise it just got too hot!

Behind every project is a good leader
Each unique build requires a project champion with a vision – much like you see on the television show Grand Designs! The champion holds true to the integrity and quality of the building and will often bring in certain nuances and personality. They would also oversee the build from beginning to end.

Encouraging business and education integration
This was one of the aims of Team Dunedin and Otago Polytechnic did work very closely with businesses and industry. It is hoped that this will be encouraged moreso in the future. It was widely felt that there is a wealth of knowledge in the community that the Polytechnic could be tapping into, and this project was a good example of that.

Opportunities for the next SHAC

Team Dunedin, therefore strongly advocates for a SHaC 2011/2012 – whatever the funding and timelines dictate.

Firstly, the team itself might need a bit more time. We feel like our design was rushed through in a way and we would have liked to have a bit more time – but I guess it is hard to make everyone happy! We would also like to have had better opportunities to work with industry – if this could be coordinated somehow that would make our efforts a little easier! We feel as a team that Retrofitting is important, and would be an opportunity to expand the skills of our carpentry students. We really hope to have another opportunity with SHaC to try new and different things.


Katie Ellwood, Media and Communications
Otago Polytechnic
021 706 608
[email protected]

Mark Stevens
Metro Realty
021 649 138
[email protected]

More Information

* Consent Documentation (.pdf)
* SHAC-TeamDunedin-FinalReport.pdf (4MB)


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