What is the Papakowhai Renovation project?

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The challenge

While the Waitakere and Rotorua NOW Homes® told us how to build new homes which perform better, the fact is that most of us live in homes which have been built some time ago.  Approximately 90% of the estimated 1.7 million homes New Zealand will have in 2012 are already built. 

Increasingly the evidence is that these homes are cold, damp and inefficient, and that’s costing New Zealand and New Zealanders.  Poor health, unnecessary energy and water use, and spiralling costs affect us all.

We believe that, just as a new home can be warm, dry, healthy, resource efficient and affordable to run, so can an existing home.

The project

The Papakowhai Renovation project, in Porirua, was aimed at improving the performance of New Zealand’s existing houses.  It asked:

How can we make any house, whether built ten, twenty or fifty years ago, more energy efficient, more water efficient, healthier to live in and more affordable for its occupants?


The Papakowhai houses were renovated with the goal of meeting the performance benchmarks of the HSS High Standard of Sustainability® in energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor environment quality, waste reduction and careful material choice.  Part of the purpose of this project is to test what steps need to be taken to reach these benchmarks and how to do so in the most cost effective manner.

The project has also been the first demonstration of our ‘whole of house’ approach to renovating New Zealand homes. Our focus goes beyond energy to improving the sustainability of the whole house. Many retrofit programmes focus largely on energy efficiency, but we believe a home’s total performance reflects an interdependent web of features and design.  If one area only is addressed, it may compromise the performance of other aspects of the home. For example, high water use has energy implications - approximately 30% of typical New Zealand household energy consumption is spent heating water.  We believe the health and environmental benefits of improved indoor environment, reducing waste to landfill, and the cost savings of water conservation (directly to homeowners if it is metered, or through their rates if it isn’t), are equally important.


Information from Papakowhai has been the starting point for the HomeSmart Renovations project.

Papakowhai from above

Photo courtesy of BRANZ