Shielded Site

2022-06-26 15:41:26 By : Mr. Ford Jeffrey

Builder James Clarke was too busy to build his own home, but was shocked at the standard of the one built for him – despite the fact it met New Zealand’s Building Code.

The Queenstown home, built in 2007, was far from warm and dry, and Clarke found his newborn son was repeatedly becoming ill.

“He was coughing every night. My personality dictates that I won’t accept that. So I set out to change the way we build.”

Originally from England, Clarke says he grew up in “warm, healthy homes” and that he was naive when he first came to New Zealand.

READ MORE: * Transforming 'noughties' townhouses into energy-efficient homes * My Green Home: Te Anau family found their 'sweet spot' * An architect's own home which goes against the grain

In 2012, he was introduced to an industrial designer who suggested he consider building with SIPs. SIPs, or “structural insulated panels”, consist of an insulating foam or polyurethane core sandwiched between two structural facings, usually of strand board.

They have been used for decades overseas, particularly in the United States and Europe, and are growing in popularity in New Zealand, particularly for use in “green” homes, or super-energy-efficient homes.

“I bought a system in from the States,” Clarke says. “By 2016 demand was so much that I started a factory. We (NZSIP) supply all across New Zealand. We’ve just ticked 100 projects.”

Clarke has just completed his own build in Orepuki,​ Southland; a three-bedroom 70sqm home.

“My own house in deepest, darkest Southland, with next stop Stewart Island, sits perfectly in that environment,” he says.

“The weather pattern is volatile, four seasons in one day. Sun one minute, pouring with rain the next.”

He says it is warm and dry, despite there being no active heating: “No mould, no condensation.”

He says yes, it is smaller than most new builds in New Zealand – Statistics NZ puts the average size of all homes consented at 155sqm in 2021. It is also more expensive per square metre ($4285 per square metre compared to the national average cost to build of $2325 per square metre).

But Clarke says it’s big enough with one master bedroom, one single and a bunkroom, and New Zealanders should be prioritising warm, dry healthy homes over larger homes.

“How much space do you need? Do you need a TV room, a rumpus room, a dining room, and a living room? New Zealand is an amazing country: Get out of your house, get in amongst it.

“We’ve got record numbers of kids with asthma. We’ve got black mould throughout our houses in New Zealand. It’s past time for a change.”

As well as supplying other construction companies, Cromwell-based NZSIP has three “Smart” kit-set homes at 50 square metres, 70sqm and 100sqm. The middle size is where the $300,000 price tag comes in.

Clarke says a completed home, using his kit-set Smart 70 panels, can be built for $300,000 all up, including the $54,000 (plus GST and freight), for the wall, roof and floor panels themselves.

That price does not include the land, and the kits do not include: internal framing, external cladding, roofing material, window and door joinery, foundations, decks and porches.

He does not consider his smaller homes to be part of the tiny home movement.

“I understand why they do what they do. Many of those people are cash-poor, and the not-well-built tiny homes are no better than a blinged-up caravan.”

Damien McGill, director of Healthy Home Cooperation and a key name behind the Superhome movement, says the NZSIP kit-sets are “an affordable, space efficient, well insulated, naturally airtight range of buildings”.

“They are quick to erect and perfect for holiday homes, minor dwellings or smaller homes for those looking to retire, downsize or climb the first rung on the property ladder.”

Clarke says NZSIP has “never been busier” and he is planning a North Island factory.

“We’ve supplied from Stewart Island to Waiheke Island. We do a lot for the Wellington market and for Dunedin. The kit-sets are really gaining traction.”

The main problem, he says, is education, of the public and of builders, who do not come out of apprenticeships with knowledge of building this way.