Why building back smarter is important

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Building back smarter is about taking the opportunity that the earthquake damage presents and making the most of the chance to improve Christchurch homes.

Read our report (below) on the value case for the Build Back Smarter approach and why it should be rolled out across houses which require earthquake repairs in Canterbury.

Healthier homes, lower bills

Every New Zealander wants to live in a warm, dry and healthy home. Sadly, most New Zealand homes are cold, damp, unhealthy and costly to run, and Christchurch homes are no exception. 

63% of Canterbury houses were built before minimum insulation standards were introduced into the Building Code - that’s a large percentage which are colder and need more heating than they should.

Beacon’s HomeSmart Renovation project assessed homes across New Zealand.  75% of Christchurch homes had living room temperatures below the minimum 18°C recommended by the World Health Organisation for good health, and 96% had bedrooms colder than the recommended minimum.

Our Papakowhai Renovation project showed what was needed to bring older homes up to a higher standard of performance: high insulation levels in ceiling, walls and under-floor; double glazing; an efficient heating system and a way to carry the heat to other rooms; and energy efficient water heating.

The Papakowhai homeowners joined our Waitakere NOW Home family, and now the HomeSmart Home family, in enjoying the benefits of these changes.  Typically, homeowners reported:

  • Substantially lower power bills
  • Less need to heat - the house is warm already
  • Enjoying a higher level of comfort
  • A healthier family - no asthma, fewer colds, happier babies
  • Better mental health - happier, more relaxed, confident children

These are the benefits that Christchurch residents could also enjoy.  We just have to make the most of the opportunity!

Making the most of the opportunity

The kind of damage sustained in the earthquakes - broken chimneys, damaged roofs, ceilings or walls, broken or poorly fitting windows and frames, cracked or damaged floors or foundations - provides the ideal opportunity to consider improving the performance of homes.

As an example, take a damaged ceiling or roof. 

While damaged linings are removed and replaced, it is the perfect time to get rid of old recessed downlights.  While these were trendy once, they create gaps in the ceiling insulation and suck the warm air up into the ceiling space as if the light can was a chimney.  Replace these with pendant or button lighting, and take the time to upgrade to more efficient light bulbs.

This is also a good time to top up or install thick bulk ceiling insulation between and over the ceiling joists (ideally as a blanket). Ceiling insulation will stop heat loss through the roof, keeping the home warmer in winter and cooler in summer.  Aim for R4.0 insulation or more (this may be installed as a couple of layers and could be 175 mm or thicker, depending on the type of insulation). 

If the house has a skillion roof (houses without ceiling space), this is the best possible opportunity to install ceiling insulation. A builder may need to make additional room in the roof cavity by packing or spacing it out with battens to get extra insulation in.  If damaged roofing materials need to be removed, upgrade the insulation levels, and have the roof put back on at the same time. It is also a good time to consider roof colour - lighter roofs reflect heat, keeping the house cooler.

A less obvious opportunity is to ensure existing extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens are vented to the outside of the house (through the roof or under the eaves), or fit extractor fans. Bathrooms and kitchens add a lot of moisture to your home, causing mould and condensation especially if it is not well heated.

Generally these types of improvement only happen during major renovations, about once every 30 years.  They are disruptive and costly.  Undertaking these changes while builders, plumbers, electricians and other tradespeople are already working in your home makes sense.

Size of the opportunity

The September 2009, February and June 2010 earthquakes and aftershocks have damaged a approximately half of Christchurch’s housing stock

As of April 2012

  • 15-17,000 houses to be demolished - approximately 5600 in the red zone
  • 110,000 houses to be repaired
  • 100,000 homes with repairs under $100k, 390,000 claims to EQC
  • 15,000 homes need major repair i.e. in excess of $100,000 worth of damage.

That’s a substantial number of homes - a much larger opportunity than the 3,300 renovations that happen every year in Christchurch.


Want to know more?

Christchurch City Council has put out a repair guide to help you think through the opportunities your repairs offer.

Download it here, or visit the Council website for more information.

  • 23-Jul-2013 (Value case BBS/8)

    The Value Case for Building Back Smarter (PDF 124KB)

    Lois Easton

    This report provides an assessment of the value case for the Build Back Smarter approach and wider roll out of this across houses which require earthquake repairs in Canterbury. 

  • 31-Jul-2011 (Publication BBS/1)

    Your Chance to Build Back Smarter: Home Repair Guide (PDF 857KB)

    Verney Ryan for Christchurch City Council

    The purpose of this guide is to help you when talking with builders and in making decisions about repairing your home. It provides tips for repairing your home and gives indicative costs and savings that could be made for an average sized, three to four bedroom home.

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 homeowner.