Most houses in New Zealand compare poorly to those overseas when it comes to warmth and energy efficiency.
Building standards in New Zealand are behind most other countries in the OECD and almost all homes are constructed to the minimum required standard. Many don't meet World Health Organisation recommendations for healthy living environments, which include a minimum inside temperature of 18˚C.
Countless overseas visitors raise eyebrows at the paucity of basic insulation. It's costing us in terms of power bills and our health.
But what if we created a superhome – a warm, healthy and resilient home that costs very little to run and has minimal impact on the environment?
Architect Bob Burnett designed New Zealand's first 10 Homestar-rated home, the highest level of health, warmth and efficiency. He also won the Sustainability Superstar category of the 2017 NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards for more than 20 years of dedication to improving New Zealand's buildings.
"Our housing crisis is a health crisis," he says. "Poor housing is costing billions of dollars in health care costs and is shortening our lives. More than a half of New Zealand homes have visible mould and many more have hidden mould in wall cavities.
"Sadly, almost all homes are built to the lowest legal standard. Even high-end houses are not immune."
Burnett has first-hand experience of the impact of housing on health. After the Christchurch earthquake, his family was forced to relocate from their damaged energy-efficient home into substandard rental accommodation. The health of his children deteriorated and doctors attributed it to the poor housing.
He felt compelled to take action – in 2015 launching the Superhome Movement to create transformative change in the building industry.
"Every home should be a Superhome," says Bob. "Although they cost slightly more to build than a house that meets the code minimum building standards, you save thousands of dollars in ongoing running costs over time."
To create your own Superhome – either by retrofitting your existing house or building new – you need to look at energy, water, waste, materials, health and site considerations.
Optimise orientation to the sun to maximise warmth and natural light, without overheating in summer. Invest in quality insulation and an airtight layer. Make sure windows are recessed into the warm part of the wall and that they are 'thermally-broken' to prevent heat loss.
Actively ventilate the home to maintain healthy air quality and eliminate the likelihood of mould. Save water by harvesting rainwater. Choose your building materials wisely: look for non-toxic, ethically-sourced and sustainably certified products.
That could elevate your home to superstar status.
• There will be a free tour of Superhomes in Auckland on September 29-30 superhome.co.nz