The conference opened with a bang, with the Minister of Housing and Development, Hon Phil Twyford, giving a rousing presentation that made it clear that change was coming; a message well received by this audience. Decades of failure had resulted in a “hell of a mess”, he said, but he declared he was optimistic and not at all daunted by the task. Our generation could sort this out. It was a positive, even inspiring, note to begin on.
Acclaimed business journalist — and house renovator — Rod Oram gave a terrific keynote address that succeeded in providing the larger context for all the nitty gritty that was to follow. His power-point presentation took us around the world and back in time (and pointed to weeks of reading, should one be interested in the reports he referenced). He ended by talking about the extensive retrofitting carried out on his family home in Auckland. He has meticulously documented their energy bills and how they have plummeted, but made a good point that spreadsheets and cost-benefit analyses are limited in what they capture. There is no line item that can express the subjective improvements: “warm, dry and beautiful”.
The schedule that followed was packed, with three speakers in each of three timeslots on both days. Participants benefitted from a wide range of perspectives, including from academic researchers, not-for-profit agencies and public servants. Those working on the frontlines of assisting the most vulnerable New Zealanders in our worst housing provided some powerful insights into the suffering they experience and the costs we all share.
By the end of the day there was frank acknowledgement that the current Building Code is “rubbish” and different opinions about how to address it.
The second day similarly got off to a rousing start with a mind-expanding talk by Daiman Otto. The potential of prefabs to transform how and what we build goes far beyond what the audience likely imagined.
He was followed by a very warmly-received talk by Anahera Rawiri about the homes being retrofitted and newly built to house members of the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei hapū in Auckland. She was frank about some of the challenges they were addressing and the role housing played in a much wider context of community development.
Eco-Design Adviser Nelson Lebo kicked off a discussion with a considered presentation on why there is not more uptake of services, programmes and advice. He spoke from the perspective of an educator and argued passionately for educators to tailor their advice to the needs of individuals. This was followed by spirited small group discussions that followed on over lunch.
The afternoon had more technical presentations and finished on a high note with architect Bob Burnett, who has launched the open-source “Superhome” movement, which educates the public about the value and possibilities of building homes above Building Code minimums.
By Rachel Rose – Freelance Writer
The annual Eco Design Advisor conference is where research and policy meet best practice advice for households. The Eco Design Advisor conference provides a unique perspective and is highly valued by practitioners, architects, designers, researchers and building professionals as a multi-disciplinary forum for sharing research, policy, case studies, innovative ideas, and best practice. It is steadily gaining a reputation as a key event in sustainable and healthy building education.