Kiwis are constantly setting their sights higher when it comes to having the best of everything in their new builds and renovated homes.

These days that could mean increasingly innovative products and to-die-for solutions ranging from vertical gardens to Wi-Fi operated curtains.

More homebuyers are looking for Homestar-rated properties, which spells out homes' health, warmth and efficiency.

The New Zealand Building Code is the equivalent of a 4 Homestar rating. To achieve a 6 Homestar, which is the minimum standard expected by more discerning buyers, new homes must be healthier, warmer and more efficient than the law requires.

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Around 1000 homes have qualified for the 6 rating, says Andrew Eagles, chief executive officer of the New Zealand Green Building Council, which runs the rating programme.
However, around 20,000 new homes are still going through the process of being certified.

A smaller number of homes reach a 7 Homestar rating. A 10 Homestar means you're buying a world-leading home. New Zealand's first home to reach that lofty height is in Christchurch.

Many apartment and home builders are designing new homes to qualify for Homestar ratings, says Eagles.

They include Classic Builders, Dominion Constructors, Evolution, Fletcher Living, Legacy Property and MyPad.

Some home and apartment builders are taking the ratings one step further with their. For example, the St Marks residential complex design in Remuera includes a trio of five-storey high vertical walls featuring specially grown vegetation, which earned the development the first acknowledgement in the Innovation category of the Homestar Design rating system.

"The additional bio-diversity provided from the flora growing in these panels will see bees and birds attracted to the structures, while simultaneously producing oxygen, and absorbing particulate matter and contaminants such as carbon-dioxide," said Natural Habitats landscape architect Mel Robinson. St Marks achieved a 7 Homestar rating overall.

The area that is catching buyers' attention at the Home Ideas Centre is home automation, says director Philippa Lowery.

"Being able to control (things) from your phone is popular," says Lowery. "You can even control your fireplace."

Features such as LED lighting that were dreams 10 years ago, are now a reality, says Phil Smith, director at Collingridge and Smith Architects.

These days we're more likely to dream of having an outdoor room (instead of a traditional garden), triple-glazed thermally broken windows from Germany or Scandinavia, and as much glass as possible.

For exteriors, we are dreaming of the converted barn look, says Smith, while inside, the emphasis is on kitchen and bathroom finishes.