Halswell 1

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Halswell homeowner Sandra now enjoys arriving home after a day’s study as her Halswell house has been transformed from an ice box into a warm cosy home.

“I’ve noticed that we haven’t been as sick this winter and it’s so much nicer coming home to a warm house, whatever the weather,“ says Sandra.

Her home was upgraded at the same time as the earthquake repairs were completed, making it the perfect time to improve the health and efficiency of Sandra’s home.

As part of Build Back Smarter, the family had their walls and floors insulated, bathroom and kitchen extract fans and a solar hot water system installed while their home was repaired.

With three daughters, hot water is always in demand so the solar water heating, combined with only using one heat pump, has reduced polytechnic student Sandra’s power bills from up to $600 a month down to $200.

“Since moving back, the lounge heat pump warms the whole house.  We haven’t needed to run the dehumidifiers or electric blankets, and I can’t feel the moisture on the walls in the girls’ bedroom now,“ said Sandra.

Sandra paid to have her road-side windows replaced with double glazing as the full height windows were letting cold air into the home.  As part of Build Back Smarter, these were upgraded to low emissivity, argon filled glass and thermally broken aluminium frames, providing a better result. 

“I had previously lived in a house with double glazed windows and knew what a difference it would make. Our windows were draughty, many didn’t open and the window sills were rotten.  And during summer our lounge was incredibly hot due to the glare from the windows. We managed to borrow the extra money from the bank for the double glazing and I am so glad I did.“   

Sandra’s home is a 1960’s brick clad three-bedroom house was damaged during the February earthquakes with the brick veneer and foundations moving, extensive liquefaction, damage to outside paved areas and cosmetic damage inside.  Because of the liquefaction, mould and damp had spread through the house, and particularly into her daughters’ south western bedroom.

“My bedroom was like an icebox and the walls of the kids’ bedrooms were wet.  I couldn’t have the beds against the walls because of the mould.“

Their Hawkins project manager suggested including their home in Beacon Pathway’s Build Back Smarter project and Beacon Pathway’s Bill King acted as project manager which, Sandra says, took the pressure off her during the repair process.

“If Bill hadn’t been there to sort everything out for me, I wouldn’t have coped. He worked with the builder directly and it was fantastic,“ says Sandra.


Earthquake damage

The house and grounds suffered from substantial liquefaction in several of the earthquakes, as well as the ground level dropping.  There was also damage to exterior brick cladding, ceiling damage in one room, as well as minor damage to wall linings, and some other fixtures.

In terms of the scope of the earthquake repairs:

  • All of the brick cladding on the ground floor was replaced and building wrap installed
  • Ceiling linings were replaced in 3 bedrooms, hallway and lounge
  • Wall linings were repaired and redecorated
  • Doors were eased and adjusted throughout
  • Contaminated liquefaction was removed from the sub-floor
  • The floor was levelled through pile repacking
  • Ring foundation cracks were repaired and foundation re-plastered
  • Driveway, paths and patio paving were replaced
  • Additional stormwater drainage was installed


The upgrades

Pre-upgrade condition


  • Thick blown-in ceiling insulation previously installed by homeowner.
  •  None required
  •  No wall insulation
  •  R 2.8 wall insulation installed in whole house from the outside while cladding was replaced and building wrap installed.  


  • No underfloor insulation - ineffective ripped foil in place.


  • R1.6 underfloor insulation installed

  • Liquefaction and subsidence had increased an already damp underfloor - no vapour barrier
  •  Polythene vapour barrier installed 
  • Draughty external door
  • Draught excluders installed on door
  • Poor condition draughty wooden frames single glazed.  Very large north west windows creating overheating problems.  Substantial condensation on all windows.
  • Homeowner funded standard double glazed windows in aluminium frames with glare tint for large north and west facing windows in lounge. 
  • BBS project funded additional cost for thermally broken frames with low emissivity argon filled glass. 
  • New (emergency earthquake repair) electric hot water cylinder.
  • Unlagged hot water pipes.
  • Solar thermal system installed on existing hot water cylinder
  • Pipe lagging installed on hot water pipes
  • Large heat pump in lounge.
  • Poorly located heat pump in hallway; heat pump was installed in easiest location for installer but one which was ineffective for heating all the bedrooms.  
  •  No work undertaken as when additional costs (22%) of doing as part of earthquake repairs was considered too large.  However the homeowner may relocate hallway heat pump herself in the future. 
  • Kitchen rangehood vented into ceiling.
  • Ineffective bathroom extract vent, venting into ceiling.
  • Rangehood ducted to the outside.
  • New bathroom extract ventilation installed and externally ducted.
  • Efficient showerhead.
  • High flow kitchen and bathroom taps.
  • Full flush toilet
  •  New dual flush toilet cistern 

  • 30-Aug-2013 (Report BBS/9)

    Halswell 1: Build Back Smarter Case Study (PDF 1.3MB)

    Lois Easton

    Using the case studies of ten homes, the Build Back Smarter pilo project is exploring and demonstrating how homes can be upgraded as part of earthquake repairs.  This report documents the second completed case study - the upgrade of a house known in the project as Halswell 1. 

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Wall insulation Halswell 1

Wall insulation is fitted from the exterior while cladding is replaced.

Double glazing Halswell 1

High performance double glazing was also retrofitted during repair

Underfloor Halswell 1

Underfloor insulation and a vapour barrier are helping keep the home drier


Logo, Homestar

The upgrades took Halswell 1 from 2 stars to 5 stars

Logo, BBS

Living in Christchurch?

Make the most of the new Build Back Smarter Service

Christchurch   City Council has launched a free service for Christchurch people   rebuilding or repairing their earthquake-damaged homes to provide   advice about insulation,  heating methods and energy saving measures   such as double glazing,  ventilation and lighting.

Homeowners   can contact one of the service’s assessment providers who will prepare a   healthy home improvement plan tailored to the needs and budget of the   home owner.