In April 2021, MBIE released the consultation document outlining possible changes to H1.  MBIE’s stated objective of the proposed changes was to make New Zealand buildings warmer, drier, healthier and more energy-efficient.  They considered options to increase the minimum insulation levels for roofs, windows, walls and floors for new housing and small buildings. The options for minimum insulation levels were also proposed to vary across the country. Resulting in homes in the coldest parts of New Zealand requiring more insulation than those in the warmest parts.

The existing insulation values required for housing in New Zealand are too low. We are well behind other parts of the world with similar climates. The current H1 requirements were set in 2008 and lag well behind other countries with similar climates. The World Health Organization recommends maintaining an indoor temperature of 18°C-20°C to keep our team of 5 million warm in the winter.  With the current insulation requirements, it can be expensive to heat and cool. This is a result of energy waste/leakage due to poor thermal performance.  This additionally places unnecessary demand on the electricity grid at peak times and, in turn, creates avoidable greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the current minimum insulation requirements provide little protection for people against anticipated extreme temperature events (both hot and cold) which are forecast to become more likely as a result of climate change.

There were 3 broad options proposed (and excluding the ‘do nothing’ option which cannot be an option!)

Option 1. Halfway to international standards

– move to levels that are roughly half of that from other parts of the world with similar climates. A modest increase in insulation levels versus the current.  Still leaving New Zealand well behind other countries.

Option 2. Comparable to international standards

– Increase to levels that are similar to parts of the world with similar climates. This moderate increase will significantly reduce energy demands for heating and cooling.

Option 3. Going further than international standards

– the BHAG! A greater level of increase will put New Zealand’s minimum insulation levels ahead of other parts of the world with similar climates.

Kiwis make their buildings last, so houses built today are likely to remain in operation for generations of users.  The decisions made today will offer lasting benefits to improve the health, comfort and energy use by homeowners and users well beyond the design life of the building.  It is my opinion that we need to see substantive change for the benefit of those following us.  Yes, we have a housing shortage, and yes building costs are increasing given the current shortages and shipping issues arising from Covid – but that is short term.  We need to be looking longer term.

November 2021 is when we will know what is to be put in place.  We trust that MBIE take a bold decision in updating H1 and move New Zealand forward, out of tents and into warmer, healthier dwellings. Providing meaningful living conditions and reduced energy demand on our nation.  Continuing to leave New Zealand behind other developed nations (as we have been for so long in this area) would be a disservice to our team of 5 million.  Maybe the BHAG is not going to happen this year, but let’s hope MBIE provides a clear pathway forward so designers, builders, insulation manufacturers and installers can confidently gear up to the challenge to make New Zealand buildings warmer, drier, healthier and more energy-efficient.

Nick Hall

October 2021