Keen to swap dripping windows and mouldy walls for a healthy home, Lee Ann and Murray Durbin went to their architect's meeting with a different vision. They knew how they wanted their house to perform but they had no idea how they wanted it to look.

"We left that to the architect," says Murray, of their design team at S3Architects. "It's a lot more modern than we set out to build, but we've loved it."

So have thousands of curious visitors who have queried its detail and, in many cases, reproduced the technical features that have given this home its environmental star quality.

This is the family home for Lee Ann, Murray and their three young children. It is also the show home they built four years ago, in partnership with suppliers, to showcase sustainable home design.


Built in 2014, this home has a verified airtight building envelope. It consumes 80 per cent less energy than a traditional home, maintains a consistent, comfortable year-round temperature and has around 30 per cent less humidity than standard homes.

23 Reliance Crescent, Beachlands. Photo / Getty Images
23 Reliance Crescent, Beachlands. Photo / Getty Images

Whether the doors are open or closed, the house changes its air several times a day through a 24/7 balanced "air in-air out" German heat recovery ventilation system Murray calls "the lungs of the house".

They are self-sufficient in water, harvested from their house/pergola rooftops and upper terrace and stored under their vegetable gardens.

The home has an International Passive House Plus Certification from Germany that focuses on low energy consumption, and a coveted 10-Homestar rating from the New Zealand Green Building Council for criteria including accessibility, waste minimisation and the native trees added to their "urban orchard" landscape.

23 Reliance Crescent, Beachlands. Photo / Getty Images
23 Reliance Crescent, Beachlands. Photo / Getty Images

When Lee Ann and Murray bought here, this neighbourhood was all sheep on green pastures with double-height sea views from Motuihe and Waiheke round to the Omana Regional Park.

Those views remain intact because every surrounding house is single-storey. "That was a stroke of absolute luck," says Murray. This is a passive, highly insulated, sustainably-built home.

"We use the sun but we're not dependent on it so it's not a passive solar house as such."

Features include dual ceramic weatherboard/fibre cement cladding, internal air-tightness membranes, triple-glazed aluminium joinery, and an 8kw 32-panel solar system on the roof.

23 Reliance Crescent, Beachlands. Photo / Getty Images
23 Reliance Crescent, Beachlands. Photo / Getty Images

Beneath bamboo/tiled floors, timber battens laid in cradles made from recycled car tyres create the insulation cavity with added acoustic benefits. Recessed north and west-facing windows deflect excess sunshine, as does the exterior vertical fin on the upstairs front lounge window.

The rooftop terrace is one of Murray's favourite spaces. Underfoot, the floating pedestal system means these tiles can be lifted and the terrace planted in lawn or garden.

"The house took on a life of its own," says Murray. It spawned his consultancy in passive high performance housing sector and Lee Ann's role with the New Zealand Green Building Council. The couple have outgrown this house and are looking to build again — sustainably of course.

• 4 bedrooms, 2 bathroom, 2* parking spaces.
• House 270sq m, land 860sq m.
• Tender: April 9.
• Inspect: Sat/Sun 3-3.30pm.
• Schools: Beachlands Primary and Intermediate, Howick College.
• Contact: Clare Nicholson, Bayleys, 021 290 0505 or Claire Dower 021 2066 822.
*Plus 2 OSP