After enduring winters with sky-high electricity bills in a "chocolate-box villa" in Birkenhead, the Bishop family knew they wanted to be warm and comfortable in their next home, but without the four heat pumps and two wood-burners they had in the villa. Their determination paid off, as the family's contemporary home in Coatesville has an ambient temperature year-round. Tina, Rory and sons Blake, 9 and Felix, 6, have been known to step outside and only realise then how hot or cold the day is.
Tina and Rory - both engineers - bought an idyllic piece of land on Glenmore Rd a year before they started their build in 2013. They'd visit with the boys to enjoy the view, cut the grass, share a picnic and plan their new healthy home, designed by Duncan Firth from Solarei, which specialises in environmental and sustainable houses.
"Our priorities were passive solar energy, energy efficiency and eco principles," Tina says.
The build took two years and it was documented exhaustively. Tina says they took more than 1000 photos, some of which were displayed on the project's own Facebook page and included in a hefty book the family created as a memento.
Built for the site and its aspect, the house has insulated concrete exterior walls thicker than the building code requires and a commercial-quality concrete floor for passive solar gain.
"The roof angles are really important in this house as they keep the house cool in summer and warm in winter, depending on where the sun is in the sky," Tina says.
"The design of the house is everything to make it work," says Rory. "But it's really function over form."
However, as Tina explains, "Everything looks normal, though. There's no composting toilet".
A series of windows helps to ventilate the house and regulate airflow in summer. In winter, the family can choose to congregate around a wood-burner in the living area, but it's there for atmosphere, rather than heat, thanks to the house's sustainable design.
The Bishops have focused their efforts on a healthy house, but they have also created a colourful, practical home for their family. The internal walls have sound insulation, ideal for when Rory is playing his guitars in the guestroom/second living area and the boys are tinkering on the grand piano in the main living room. The kitchen has a butler's pantry, plus a granite island benchtop long enough for six bar stools.
There are luxurious and quirky choices throughout - marble and timber ply vanity units in the two bathrooms, hand-thrown ceramic pendant lights in the kitchen and industrial light-fittings from an old bowling alley in Palmerston North.
The tilt-slab concrete walls feature a pattern, the rawness of the concrete softened by timber accents such as the kitchen cabinetry and built-in shelves and lockers inside the front door that cater for all the family's daily paraphernalia.
"This is a really homely home and such a great community. The boys get the bus to Pinehurst School at the top of the road," Tina says.
With its own paddock, orchard, bush and picnic clearing, the 1.5ha site has plenty of room for the boys and 2-year-old schnauzer-griffin cross Teddy to explore.
The Bishops are now planning to move closer to the city.