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Urgent home insulation upgrade must not be delayed

02 June 2022

“Living in damp, mouldy, poorly ventilated homes is making New Zealanders sick. In some cases it's killing us”, architect and Professional Practice Director Marcus Hogan wrote in June last year.

In the article, published by RNZ, Hogan urged the government to forge ahead with much needed updates to the Building Code, and pledged support for proposed changes, on behalf of Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects.  

The changes, agreed late last year, mean significantly increased insulation requirements in all homes approved after 2 November 2022. They play an urgent and important part in ensuring our homes are warm and healthy and are a positive step towards reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

"These changes will be critical to ensure the health, wellbeing and the environment for future generations and the country as a whole", the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE’s) building performance and engineering manager wrote when they were first proposed.

The health and wellbeing of New Zealanders and the planet is why the Institute is today urging the Ministry to remain committed to its 2 November 2022 deadline for the implementation of these changes.

A further delay, as is currently proposed by MBIE, will mean new homes can be built with below-par insulation until May next year. In 2021, close to 49,000 homes were consented. If the trend continues, and the deadline is extended, could we see that number of new homes built before insulation requirements change?

We believe that an extension of this deadline is a simple transfer of costs. Rather than absorbing the cost of building new homes that are healthier and more sustainable, it will place the burden on future generations grappling with climate change.

It will also burden our already strained public health system. Last year, a study estimated that damp or mouldy housing conditions and associated hospitalisations cost the health system approximately $141 million.

In a country where 40 percent of houses are damp and mouldy, and 60 percent of children live in homes with temperatures and humidity levels outside the World Health Organization’s recommended range, further delays to the Building Code update should not be an option.

Pressures on the construction industry from increasing demand and supply chain issues is no excuse to defer our responsibility to reduce emissions and increase wellbeing by making our homes warmer, drier and more affordable to heat. The industry has proved in the last two years that it can quickly adapt to change. Changes to the Building Code are no exception.

Until these changes come into effect – whether it be in November or May next year - the industry can design and build homes that are well above the minimum requirements of the Building Code.

The Institute has encouraged architects to challenge the status quo by doing just this – and many members have done so for years, demonstrating leadership, and promoting the health and environmental benefits of more energy efficient homes.

But to trigger real change, the whole industry must be on board. That is why the Institute strongly opposes any extension to the transition period for Acceptable Solution H1/AS1 and Verification Method H1/VM1 Fifth Editions for housing.