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  Exceeding the minimum

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The building standards and code outline the minimum standards for any building. However, as compliance regimes are fixed against that level many buildings are developed up to the minimum and seldom strive to exceed the minimum standards.

This programme will help both consumers and the building industry understand that the standards are a minimum only, and that there are real benefits to exceeding them. With the benefit of better information around options, the opportunity to consider higher performing buildings will be created. Over time, this can help create a more responsive market - with industry able to better meet consumer expectations, aspirations and needs.

The critical success criteria for this programme includes: 

  • Consumers and industry understand that the code and standards are a minimum that must be met but can and should be exceeded
  • The benefits of exceeding the minimum can be clearly articulated based on meaningful terms
  • The barriers to exceeding the minimum have been addressed
  • Consumers expect and demand buildings and communities that perform to a higher standard
  • The industry delivers buildings and communities that perform to a higher requirement in a cost effective way

 To find out more about this research programme, please contact the Programme Leader, David Dowdell.

Research under this programme includes:

Consumers and industry understand that the Code and standards are a minimum that must be met but can be exceeded

Measuring our sustainability progress (due March 2019) [Area of focus: new build dwellings] 

  • This is the second project of its type, the first having been undertaken in 2013.
  • It uses a consistent, repeatable method to quantify indicators of stand-alone house performance based on consent documentation. Indicators include measures of simulated thermal performance.
  • Shows the extent of exceeding the minimum features in house consents (within the limits of calculated indicators). Comparison will also be made with results from 2013.  

Accurately calculating thermal performance in timber-framed medium density housing across New Zealand (due September 2018) [Area of focus: new build dwellings] 

  • Aim of the project is to recommend a method or methods taking into account accuracy and viability. 
  • "Rule of thumb" wall timber content can be approximately half "as built" timber content in walls, with consequences for the thermal performance of the wall.
  • Current methods for calculating wall thermal and moisture performance are inadequate for more complex construction assemblies.
  • This project compares alternative calculation methods for wall construction R values, and assesses how "rule of thumb" and "as built" timber content in walls affects thermal performance. 

How do we encourage consumers and industry to exceed the minimum (due March 2019) [Area of focus: new build dwellings?] 

  • Aim is to look at models of change which can be applied to construction industry practice and consumer behaviour.
  • It will produce a plan of how findings can be implemented into actions. 

The benefits of exceeding the minimum can be clearly articulated based on meaningful terms

Quantifiable evidence for building beyond Code (due December 2018) [Area of focus: new build dwellings] 

  • Aim is to develop an evidence base showcasing the benefits of exceeding the minimum with respect to energy and thermal performance.
  • It will provide definitions of Code, better and best thermal performance which will inform the basis of the assessment.
  • A comparison of the New Zealand Building Code and New Zealand voluntary thermal performance requirements will be made with international standards. 

Who benefits from exceeding the minimum and which standards can be exceeded to provide benefits? (due September 2018) [Area of focus: new dwellings] 

  • Aim is to ascertain the standards that are already being exceeded, the types of houses in which these standards are being exceeded, and who would most benefit from this.
  • Includes an industry survey (500 responses) on housing quality, building standards in New Zealand and experiences of exceeding the minimum.
  • Assesses institutions and structures in the exceeding the minimum space in terms of power, incentives and behaviours. 

Tools for young people to understand how they can improve home performance (due December 2020) [Area of focus: existing and new build dwellings] 

  • Aims to help young people as house occupiers now and as future tenants and house purchasers.
  • Work will include building understanding and selection of a trial group or groups (in areas where there is a supportive environment that can help families obtain advice and take steps to improve house performance).
  • Home Performance Advisor training materials will be tailored to suit delivery to young people and prepare trial groups for working in regions.
  • Regional teams will pilot in schools
  • The pilots will be evaluated and teaching tools refined, with findings and outcomes reported.  

The barriers to exceeding the minimum have been addressed

Doing better - assessing recent New Zealand research for impact (completed)  

  • Exceeding the minimum is defined as exceeding standards in the New Zealand Building Code and/or demanding dimensions of performance not currently specified in the New Zealand Building Code.
  • Dwelling access and functionality is currently limited in the New Zealand Building Code and excluded from application to private residential dwellings despite evidence that is this is crucial to ageing societies.
  • When performance is not specified in the New Zealand Building Code, it is problematic because the minimum is effectively zero. Lack of recognition in the Building Code means lack of industry take-up and poor research investment.
  • A lack of recognition, research under-investment and low industry take up leads to a lack of research being cited as a reason not to incorporate requirements into legislation.
  • New Zealand and international research shows that a concerted, multi-pronged approach is necessary to achieve outcomes that exceed the minimum. This should include a regulatory framework, industry incentives and development, consumer education and accreditation, and sufficient investment.
  • The view that the construction industry cannot innovate is false. To improve industry take-up, net benefits must be demonstrated and solutions should be "plug and play".

The choice to exceed (completed) 

  • This uses a qualitative, social research method to look at current industry advice and messages to consumers about exceeding the minimum for new-build dwellings.
  • Focus groups were held in Christchurch and Wellington on consumer experiences.
  • An industry focus group was also held on experiences of dealing with consumers about exceeding the minimum.
  • Consumers conveyed an inability to access relevant information and a lack of confidence and trust in building professionals.

Building to rent (completed) 

  • Homeownership levels are falling. An increasing number of New Zealanders are spending long periods in rental accommodation. 
  • Aim is to assess whether new rental housing should be developed based on different models including consideration of a shell and fitout model, establishment of real estate investment trusts and use of energy performance certificates. 


Exceeding the minimum for volume home builders and their clients (due November 2018) [Area of focus: new build dwellings] 

  • Aim is to develop and market test specific targeted advice for the interaction point between volume home builders and consumers.
  • Will explore and determine an optimal method and approach e.g. a checklist, guided conversation, brochure with images.
  • The method will be tested and assessed. 

When is ‘good enough' not good enough? (due December 2018) [Area of focus: existing dwellings] 

  • This project will collect information and opinions from consumers about what they understand by minimum standards.
  • Includes a survey of experiences of refurbishing houses to beyond New Zealand Building Code level.
  • Assessment of the value consumers place on upgrade options. 

Getting the stated performance in higher spec'd windows - tackling the window - wall junction [due March 2020) [Area of focus: new build dwellings] 

  • Aims to give confidence to industry by providing workable solutions.
  • Compilation and identification of potential solutions.
  • Most promising solutions will be constructed, tested for buildability, thermal / weathertightness.
  • Best performing solutions converted to drawings as an industry resource. 

Consumers expect and demand buildings that perform to a higher standard

LCAQuick - Residential (due December 2018) [Area of focus: new build dwellings] 

  • Aim is to develop a tool for calculating life cycle environmental impacts (including climate change) of dwellings during design. This will be based on modification of the LCAQuick - Office tool that is already available (at www.branz.co.nz/buildingLCA). 
  • Work will include development of embodied environmental impact data for materials and development of reference residential buildings. 

Understanding life-cycle design (due March 2019) [Area of focus: new build and refurbishment of offices, other typologies] 

  • Provision of support and training to architects and engineers who want to incorporate life cycle assessment into design using LCAQuick.
  • Webinars, working with tertiary education institutes to get building LCA included in course materials.
  • Development of case studies for which the life cycle environmental impacts have been calculated during the design and build process.

The industry delivers buildings that perform to a hiher requirement in a cost effective way

Retrofitting insulation in residential properties (due August 2018) [Area of focus: existing dwellings] 

  • Seeks to understand where consumers and landlords obtain advice about insulation, and how they judge the credibility and quality of the information / advice they receive.
  • Explores the factors that consumers take into account when making decisions about insulation.
  • Aims to provide recommendations on how advice to landlords and homeowners may be improved.