“When approaching building surveying and design, the focus is now shifting from remediation, to building houses that we know are going to be healthy homes for the future,” according to the New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors executive member, Nick Gaites.
During the building boom in the 90s and early 2000s, houses were being built with substandard materials in large volumes.
The market for building surveyors was therefore heavily focussed on remedial residential sector buildings, driven by litigation and the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service (WHRS) Act.
“Unfortunately, as time has passed, these buildings are no longer eligible for compensation from the court or WHRS Act, as they are too old. This is acting as a barrier to remediations being done.”
Despite this, with the implementation of the Government’s Healthy Homes Guarantee Act, we are heading in the right direction, Nick says.
“Legislation such as the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act will improve the rental building stock, because it requires residential landlords to upgrade the insulation their buildings.
“New Zealand is experiencing a shift to renting, because people can’t buy their own homes. This makes the rental market more competitive; people can’t choose one rental property over another, so they must take what they can get.
“A healthy home is a basic human right, and the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act makes it a responsibility for landlords to ensure they are providing a healthy environment for their tenant.”
According to Nick, the weathertightness issues highlight the poor state of established residential buildings, and they are the catalyst for our focus on building healthy homes.
“However, the issue goes beyond weathertightness. We need to think about the whole building’s performance. From heating to insulation and ventilation, as well as weathertightness.
“Fixing weathertightness problems often requires a full recladding, which is expensive and difficult. With additional roof or subfloor insulation, you might improve heat retention, but you won’t solve other problems. The house may still be damp, and there may be minimal ventilation because of the building design.
“It is much easier to create a healthy house in a new build because we have new and updated building codes and acceptable solutions. We can start from scratch to ensure it is a healthy home.”
Nick says there are many things building surveyors can do to ensure people are living in healthy homes.
“As building surveyors, when we are looking at existing buildings, we need to be mindful that it is possible to improve aspects beyond weathertightness, such as upgrading insulation, adding ventilation or changing windows.
“We need to make sure we think about those things and offer that to the client.
“During due diligence or pre-purchase inspections, commenting on things that would influence a healthy home would be useful.
“It’s about providing good quality living standards and moving on from looking purely at weathertightness, to a more holistic view of building performance.”