News | 01 July 2019
Kiss House and housing in New Zealand and Australia.
We’re delighted to tell you that Kiss House is working towards having a presence in New Zealand and Australia.
Elrond Burrell will be our person on the ground. With over 18 years of experience in architecture and sustainable design, Elrond is a renowned Passivhaus and BIM expert plus a frequent keynote speaker who delivered the keynote address at the International Passive House Conference in Munich in 2018. He also publishes the highly respected blog “Passivhaus in Plain English.” We cannot think of a better person to represent us.
It’s still early days so we’ll be announcing more about what we’re up to over time, please do sign-up to get our news to find out more as it happens.
Demand for high quality housing New Zealand and the UK
Since we started Kiss House in 2017 we’ve noticed a close fit between all we’re working to achieve in the UK and what people are hankering after in New Zealand and Australia. Great sustainable housing that puts people and quality first is in increasing demand on both sides of the globe. As knowledge of credible alternatives to “the way we’ve always built houses” becomes more widely understood no longer are people prepared to put up with low standards.
Passivhaus is a case in point, it proves that buildings that overheat in the summer and cost a fortune to run in the colder months need not be all that’s on offer. Supply is of course an issue both in the UK and in New Zealand and both have a huge demand for housing. Sadly high quality housing is in particularly short supply and sustainable housing is even harder to come by.
Shamubeel Eaqub, Auckland-based housing economist from Sense Partners, stated that after not building enough homes in New Zealand for decades, the country is now half a million units short of what its population of 4.5 million needs. This desperate need for housing raises serious quality concerns. As Elrond Burrell commented:
“Quality construction and its outcomes are a major issue in New Zealand. Leaky buildings, poor materials, shoddy construction and cold draughty buildings are fresh in everyone’s mind when thinking about building here! Our housing quality in New Zealand is exceptionally poor, even when it comes to expensive houses. There is a need for high quality sustainable houses and of course the more of them that we deliver the more affordable they will become.”
Will high housing demand affect housing quality?
Clearly there is a concern that with demand so high quality could suffer further.
This is certainly not an issue unique to New Zealand and we suffer the same thing in the UK. Even now, when off-site manufacture offers so much potential for quality control and precision engineering there’s very little conversation or focus on how new methods can significantly raise standards. At Kiss House we find this particularly depressing but are greatly encouraged to have ourselves described as being part of a “new wave of purpose led housing companies, dedicated to changing things for the better” by Christiane Lellig, Campaign Director Wood for Good.
At Kiss House we believe that building to the Passivhaus standard is an immediate route to quality. Better still Passivhaus is a comfort standard, and comfort is something that gets us really excited. Comfort is all about the lives lived in a space. We believe that well planned spaces filled with natural light, that have a constant ambient temperature with zero cold spots, draughts, mould and damp and which perform equally well in all weather conditions should be the norm. Clean filtered air, brilliant acoustics and all the other benefits of Passivhaus design all directly impact our well-being and improve our lives.
This feels closely aligned with the present mood in New Zealand following the their government’s introduction of the world’s first “wellbeing budget”. It is a bold move to prioritise gross national wellbeing, in other words the mental health or citizens over economic growth or other priorities. Specific emphasis is placed on the importance of home and the budget includes measures to reduce homelessness.
This reminds us of a recent report in the UK’s Guardian newspaper that said Finland is leading the world in reducing homelessness amongst its population. It is also the only country in Europe where homelessness is in decline.
Finland’s secret is said to be:
“Giving people homes as soon as they need them, unconditionally… because a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.”
Finland's housing first scheme
This enlightened approach which places the importance of home right at the heart of health and social care is clearly paying dividends.
“Housing first costs money, of course: Finland has spent €250m creating new homes and hiring 300 extra support workers. But a recent study showed the savings in emergency healthcare, social services and the justice system totalled as much as €15,000 a year for every homeless person in properly supported housing.”
Home as a fundamental human right
Clearly there is something about having a home / being afforded that fundamental human right, that directly enables people to rebuild their lives, as evidenced in Finland even amongst the long-term homeless.
Interestingly it’s specifically noted in the Guardian article that the housing being created for this purpose in Finland is “permanent and comfortable”, implying a level of consideration and quality. We cannot speak to the sustainable credentials of the housing in the Housing First scheme but hopefully the consideration and quality extends to the sustainability of it.
Carbon used in both the construction of housing and in its use is hugely important as we face the climate crisis. Housing, especially when built using traditional brick and block construction, and or construction that relies on reinforced concrete and steel, is accountable for massive carbon consumption throughout its lifecycle.
Specifically, carbon pollution is created when occupants use energy for heating and lighting, during construction of houses, and is emitted through the extraction of raw materials for the manufacture of building products. A report by The Productivity Commission in 2018 showed that buildings contribute up to 20 percent of New Zealand’s carbon footprint.
Wherever in the world housing is constructed, unless we begin to systematically consider quality in the round and take into account all relevant factors (quality of construction, the environment created, building materials, carbon emissions etc) housing will continue to serve us poorly as both occupants of our homes and the planet.
Most governments are not doing enough to force positive change and improve quality. They are not mandating change so it’s falling to individuals and businesses who are driven by purpose over profit. Policies like those of the Finnish and New Zealand governments provide real hope and inspiration. Beyond that in the housing market it will take greater diversity of supply and more quality players entering. We are very excited about being part of this new wave in the UK, New Zealand and Australia.