What is the HomeSmart Renovation project?

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HomeSmart Renovations is Beacon’s large scale, New Zealand-wide renovation project.  Its goal was to test what it takes to get consumers retrofitting to improve their homes’ performance. 

 

From our early research

Earlier live research projects (the NOW Homes® and the Papakowhai Renovation project) have investigated how to make homes perform better, creating homes that are warmer, drier, healthier, more resource efficient, more comfortable and cost less to run.  Unsurprisingly, this earlier research identified that “standard” renovation packages currently in place across New Zealand fall well short of achieving any kind of sustainability standards.

It suggested that the performance of the whole house needed to be considered,  and that:

  • It’s important to insulate the full thermal envelope, including the walls
  • Efficient heating must accompany a thermal retrofit
  • Hot water cylinder wraps are a great energy efficiency measure and should be widely applied
  • Solar hot water systems can perform well, even in winter
  • Low-flow showerheads should accompany hot water conversions

These findings underpin the advice offered to homeowners in the HomeSmart Renovation project.

 

The process

650 participating homeowners had their home’s performance assessed by independent assessors.  The audit reviewed all aspects of performance – energy, water, waste and the living environment.  Each homeowner then received a HomeSmart Renovation Plan, tailored to their home, outlining what steps to take, and in what order, to bring their homes to Beacon’s HSS High Standard of Sustainability®, a set of benchmarks for a high-performing home.

Critical to the project were a series of homeowner surveys and interviews to find out what steps the homeowner actually took, based on the renovation plan. Participating homes were monitored for energy and water use, as well as indoor humidity and temperature, to see if the renovations actually undertaken in fact brought the house to a high standard of performance.

 

The Renovation Plans

Research is increasingly showing the link between warm, dry homes and healthy families.  Equally, and especially in times of recession, homeowners need their homes to run efficiently, costing as little as possible in running costs for heating, water heating, power and water.

The trouble is that it’s often difficult for homeowners to know what steps to take and what renovations will be most cost effective.

The HomeSmart Renovation Plan aimed to provide the information to answer these questions.

Based on the assessments, the Renovation Plan showed homeowners how to get the best return on their investment, by drawing up a detailed pathway to improving the sustainability of their home.  The Renovation Plan provides a holistic view of what steps to take, and in what order, to ensure the best results and to allow homeowners to work their way through as time and budget allowed. This means the common trap of spending ad hoc without an overall plan for making the home warmer, healthier, more comfortable and more efficient, is avoided.  The Renovation Plan took a whole-of-house approach and was independent of any products or manufacturers.

 

The research goal

HomeSmart Renovations aimed to test what it takes to get consumers retrofitting to improve their homes’ performance.  It focused on whether homeowners provided with independent advice on achieving an affordable and effective retrofit, will continue on to make the changes needed to bring homes to the HSS High Standard of Sustainability®.

Surveys and interviews indicated what actions homeowners took and how their attitudes to renovation changed as they became more informed about home performance.  In particular, we wanted to know:

  • Was our advice useful?
  • Did it result in renovations that improved the home?
  • How much did home performance improve? (energy savings, water savings, warmer temperatures, lower humidity)
  • What were the benefits for homeowners?  (lower power bills, lower water rates, better health, greater enjoyment of the home)

Monitoring of homes before renovation gave a large scale snapshot of the actual performance of homes across New Zealand.  Post-renovation monitoring showed the extent to which homes became warmer, drier and more resource efficient.

 

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