The Waitakere NOW Home

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Waitakere NOW Home frontageThe Waitakere NOW Home was Beacon’s first live research project,  designed and built to show that a sustainable house could be built now using materials and products available today. 

Not only was the house designed and built to meet strict performance goals, it was extensively monitored in real-life conditions.  As the young family living in the house went about their day-to-day lives, the performance of the Waitakere NOW Home was remotely monitored. Data was collected on energy use, water use, rainwater collection, temperature,  indoor air quality, humidity and moisture levels.  It has provided sound scientific proof of the benefits of living in a sustainable home.

Simple principles of good building

By using simple, proven designs and technologies in combination, the Waitakere NOW Home addresses the whole house - from energy efficiency to water to the indoor environment, and even to waste.

Its simple features include:

  • A design which faces the north with lots of windows on the northern side
  • Wide eaves to let the winter sun in but keep the summer sun out
  • A concrete floor which absorbs heat from the sun and releases it when the air is cold
  • High levels of ceiling, wall and floor insulation, much higher than in the Building Code
  • Double glazed windows to keep the heat in and the noise out
  • Solar water heating
  • Water efficient taps, toilet and appliances
  • A rainwater tank to collect and reuse rain
  • Ventilation of moisture in the kitchen and bathrooms
  • Passive ventilation to keep down moisture and avoid overheating
  • Good natural light in all rooms combined with efficient light fittings and bulbs

The results

Here are the highlights:

  • 7400 kWh was used in the first year - 33% less than a comparable 4 person household and 45% less than the tenants’  energy use in their previous house 
  • Only needed additional heating  on two days over the year. 
  • The living room had an average winter temperature of 21.6°C and the bedrooms had an average night-time winter temperatures of 17.4°C -17.7°C. These exceeded World Health Organisation minimums for healthy temperatures (compared to 30% of New Zealand homes which regularly don’t meet these standards).
  • The solar water heater provided more than half (55%) of hot water needs. That’s equivalent to a saving of 1620kWh (compared to similar houses in the area) or about $275 on water heating alone.
    Total water use, including both reticulated water (from mains supply) and free water (from the rainwater tank), was 189 litres per person per day in the first year, dropping to 172 litres per person per day in the second year, much lower than local usage
  • A recent comparison  to new builds today found the Waitakere NOW Home outperformed all but a few.

The next steps

Through the Waitakere NOW Home project, we developed the HSS High Standard of Sustainability,  a set of performance benchmarks in energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor environment quality, waste reduction and careful material choice.

The project has also been the first demonstration of our ‘whole of house’ approach to improving New Zealand homes. We believe that sustainable homes are not just about energy efficiency: they are about using water wisely, creating a healthy indoor environment, selecting renewable and recyclable materials, and reducing construction and household waste.

“It’s the BEST home we ever lived in”

NOW Home tenants

Read the Waitakere NOW Home case study for more details