How climate will change the way homes are built

The technical director of an Australasian sustainable business organisation said the changing climate would influence how homes were built in future.

High tide in suburban Nelson.
High tide in suburban Nelson. Photo: Ross Wearing

Jeff Vickers of Thinkstep said design would be paramount to their efficiency, not only to reduce the carbon footprint created from building them, but to lessen the reliance on power-hungry appliances in the face of a warmer climate.

"One of the challenges we're going to have is that cooling demand - the amount of energy we use to cool our homes - is going to increase because we're putting a lot more heat pumps into houses for winter and as the temperature gets warmer we're going to start using them more and more in summer to start cooling our homes," Mr Vickers said.

The warnings have been talked about by the industry for almost 20 years.

In 2001, Michael Camilleri, Roman Jaques and Nigel Isaacs wrote about the impacts of climate change on building performance in the New Zealand, Building Research & Informationjournal.

They said climate change was expected to impact on many aspects of building performance, with much of the existing and future building stock likely to be affected by expected increases in flooding, tropical cyclones and overheating.

A recently released government-backed report showed that hundreds of thousands of people and billions of dollars worth of property in New Zealand were now said to be at risk from flooded rivers and rising seas.

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Rock walls protect homes from the sea in Nelson. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

The details were contained in two reports released in August by Niwa and the Deep South National Science Challenge - a research unit that focused on determining New Zealand's future climate.

In Tasman District, where hundreds of homes hugged the shoaling beaches of Tasman Bay, the warnings were already out.

The council has recently consulted on a new coastal management plan to try and mitigate the effects of a rising tide. It also recently signed off its climate action plan, which was aimed at improving the district's resilience to a changing climate.

Chief executive Janine Dowding said the council was planning for what the science showed would be warmer, drier summers and wetter winters for Tasman.

She said the council was thinking now about renewable energy technology could be factored in to new buildings.

"We'll continue to develop our district plans and policies, taking those sorts of opportunities, but I don't think it's as simple as saying 'global warming means more air conditioning'.

"We're looking at a whole lot of implications we're yet to fully understand, so jumping to an immediate solution runs risk that you cause other unintended consequences," Ms Dowding said.

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