The building industry has launched a new voluntary energy rating
scheme for houses it hopes will be picked up by home owners and buyers.

However, while welcoming the scheme as a move in the right direction, the Greens say compulsory Government standards are required to tackle New Zealand's overly damp and cold homes.

The Homestar system is being promoted by its backers - which include
building industry organisations and companies - as "a comprehensive home rating system to help Kiwis create healthier, more comfortable and energy efficient living spaces".

The scheme has three parts ranging from an initial online self assessment tool for home owners through to a system under which
authorised assessors will conduct tests on homes with the overall result - measured in stars out of ten - being entered onto searchable online register.

It is anticipated a rating of between five and seven stars would be
acceptable to most home owners but as many as two thirds of existing New Zealand homes were likely to fall short of that.

The initiative is a partnership between the building industry research groups BRANZ and Beacon Pathway, and the Green Building Council.

Green Building Council chief executive Alex Cutler said while the
assessment was not compulsory, "over time it is expected that market
forces will encourage home owners to obtain a Homestar certified rating when buying or selling a home".

"Homestar is expected to have an impact on property values, with a
higher star rating providing a competitive edge for some houses on
the market."

The European Union will shortly introduce a compulsory energy rating
system for homes but Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson said his Government preferred not to do that.

"We are confident that consumers will rapidly adopt good systems when
they see what the benefits are. Where possible to allow consumer choice,
we favour it over compulsion."

Green Party Housing spokesperson Gareth Hughes said his party supported the principle of a single easy-to-use rating scheme that would encourage homeowners and landlords to improve the efficiency of their properties.

"Unfortunately, a voluntary scheme such as HomeStar is more likely
to attract those homeowners who already have efficient homes, and
thereby miss out the homes that are most in need of improvement," he

The market hadn't succeeded in delivering warm healthy homes so
far, "so it's clear that we need mandatory standards".

"It's a wasted opportunity that the Government has not put
more resources into investigating a robust mandatory scheme, which would be far more effective at giving consumers the valuable
information they want and need when buying or renting a home."

Energy efficiency consultant Grant Dunford had misgivings that the scheme was based on ticking boxes for various energy efficiency features and products but was unlikely to measure the actual performance of the home.

Furthermore there were "industry players" behind the scheme that
may skew it, he said.

"Hopefully it's going to be genuine, objective and informative."

Ms Cutler acknowledged that online users of the system
seeking to improve the energy efficiency of their homes may be directed to the websites of building products manufacturers who were supporting the scheme, but that would made clear to them at the time.

* Free online assessment covering insulation, heating, water use, waste, ventilation.

* If the home doesn't meet minimum standards for warmth and comfort Homestar's "Homecoaches" will provide suggestions as to how that can be fixed. Once that is done, home owners can reassess their home to get an improved rating.

* Homestar will also provide trained specialists to conduct detailed assessments for a fee of about $450. The home owner will then
receive a rating out of ten stars, a Homestar certificate of assessment
and authentication number.