The Taramea Climate House is one entrepreneurial family's experiment with passive house building methods. And it is an experiment that is turning out very successful. Despite not having any heating, this home manages to stay a cosy 20 degrees even on the frostiest of mornings in Queenstown. The energy that the solar panels produce take care of not not only the house's electrical consumption, but also charge their electric vehicle to drive 50km a day. This was achieved by building with a prefabricated product called SIPS (Structurally Insulated Panels), installing a fully insulated concrete slab, using triple glazed joinery, and airtight Pro Clima products. Additionally, the interior design has been carried out thoughtfully and beautifully, creating a very special home to abode in.
We are a family of three, being Michael 38, Jodie 38 and Olive 4, along with our two dogs Pippy and Ponti. Michael is a founder/director in Climate House NZ and NZSIP Smart Panels, as well as Wilding & Co. Jodie expresses her passion for interior design through Hide and Seek Style.
We wanted to create a successful and functioning Passive House. To push the boundaries on NZ building standards and prove things can be done in a different way.
The internal floor area is 150square metres. There are three bedrooms, one open plan living area, 2.5 bathrooms and an office.
External square metre area is 180m2 which was $3,250 per m2 including solar panels and very costly liquefaction proof floating foundation and includes fitout and furnishings.
The house has been built on a rural property in Speargrass flat, Queenstown, facing Coronet Peak with a north facing aspect. The land was an existing family owned plot. Where we built was the only site on the property allowed by council to build on.
We designed the house and Guy Shaw from Energy Architecture in Wellington detailed the plans for passive house certification. Michael came up with the overall concept while Jodie took care of the interior architecture. We designed the home to achieve exactly what we wanted in a family home and to maximise on space and storage.
As well as passive house design principles (north facing, small footprint), the house was inspired by the rural vernacular of Central Otago. The interiors were inspired by Scandinavian design and simplicity, with Pinterest and Instagram being great tools for ideas. The inspiration for building a Passive House came from the motivation to build a home that was efficient for the long term.
The house was a prototype for the Climate House building team to test the high performance system. It was project managed by James Clarke from Climate House and built by apprentice Mason Brookes, who was 19 at the time, and completed by Paul Gerrard. The house was built during 2015 and took 7 months. This would have been a lot quicker had we not built over the winter months, as there were lots of snow and weather delays. (Ed note: During the build they hosted an open today for Prefab NZ, which you can read about here).
- Built to passive house certifications.
- SIPS Panels
- Triple Glazed Joinery from Germany
- Blower door test result of 0.4 ACH (passive house standard being 0.6 ACH)
- Nilan Compact P MHRV unit for 24 hour ventilation and hot water generation.
- Thermory ash flooring and fixtures,
- Thermory Baltic pine cladding.
- IKEA fit out and furnishings.
- Fisher & Paykel appliances.
- Solar Panels
James Clarke was our project manager and dealt with most things for us which was very helpful. The main obstacles we had while building was to overcome the bad weather in the beginning, which delayed things. It was important being prefab that builders understood the importance of sequence, and to do airtightness work before other construction. We still kept an eye on things and always checked everything. There were no major changes. We were going to have stonework on the exterior but changed our minds due to design aesthetic and budget.
The biggest challenge was procurement logistics of products from overseas and organising their timely arrival (SIPS panels, windows and IKEA furniture/kitchen). Prefabrication requires a lot of pre-planning and organisation. We did a lot of research on what products to use. With the SIPS panels we researched all the different types both nationally and internationally (all are not created equally) until we found a product that met all our requirements. Michael has since gone on to establish a factory in Cromwell that will manufacture these same high quality SIPS panels (NZSIP Smart Panels), so that future builds for Climate House, and any other building company that wants to use them, can access them a lot easier than we did.
We love it's warmth and comfort. We love the complete design and are really happy with its usability and functionality. It's form follows function. We love the site and how it sits into the landscape. We love net zero energy living for both home and electric car.
Insulation, air tightness and good joinery are crucial to create a warm comfortable home. Spend more on passive systems than on active central heating systems. Spending your money in the right places will ensure your house is future proof.
This home can be replicated and would be as cheap if not cheaper than a home with central heating/cooling to build, but with close to zero running costs including extra power for a electric car (free daily transport). This home saves $10,000 a year in energy costs for home & car for a much higher standard of living & comfort. Affordable low cost *living* not *building* when looking at mortgage or rental is actually more valuable than a poorly built home with high running costs over time.
Designer / Architect: Climate House / Energy Architecture
Building Company: Climate House
Foundation: Custom insulated waffle floating slab
Plumber: Love to Plumb
Kitchen: IKEA assembled by Jodie, builder installed.
Gibstopper: Simple Solutions
Solar: Infinite Energy
Painter: Inside Job
Airtight Wrap & Roofing Underlay: Pro Clima
Window & Door Joinery: Kneer Süd Fenster from Germany.
Roofing: Extreme Roofing
Interior Designer: Jodie (Hide and Seek Interiors)
Photos by Michaela Cox Photography