Saturday, November 27

Supply tensions affect changing construction standards

Officials have shied away from bolder approaches to making homes warmer, due to tensions in the supply chain.

Housing in Mount Victoria, Wellington.

Housing in Mount Victoria, Wellington.
Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Their goal is to go part of the way to increase demands for better roofs, windows and floors, but not as much as architects and environmentalists want.

Officials will announce the new and long-awaited standards for insulation in the Building Code at the end of the month, in what is key to the government’s action on climate change.

New Zealand has a woefully poor housing stock, and Weaker standards around cold and humidity than many OECD countries – although warmer houses are known to save lives.

Recently, the government has made Insulating the houses is essential to face the climatic emergency..

He could have started a radical program of “building for climate change”, by choosing to match or even go beyond international standards.

That’s what the executive director of the Institute of Architects, Teena Hale-Pennington, pushed.

“We certainly were; we see it as a great opportunity to benefit all New Zealanders by changing and being ambitious,” he said.

However, supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic are causing prices, inflation and wait times to rise.

“Our ability to implement these new changes depends on having those materials and supplies available.

“I think that ultimately we will get the result that we are all looking for … it will just be a slightly slower and more cautious start.”

Especially for housing, which Hale-Pennington hopes will lag behind any improved standards for commercial buildings.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will not hint at the regulatory changes that are coming.

“More submissions were received for this consultation than the last five years of Building Code updates combined,” he told RNZ.

He analyzed four options, ranging from status quo, to an “adjustment”, to radical updates – with matching price tags, ranging from an additional $ 1800 in a four-bedroom construction to $ 50,000.

The architects, and Green Building Council CEO Andrew Eagles, are expecting standards for warmer windows – by demanding better double-glazing, roofs and floors are likely to be in colder places.

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Photo: MBIE Report 2021

However, although the ministry opened a discussion on how to make the walls thicker, going from a 90mm frame to 140mm as standard, so that more insulation can fit, this seems like a ban.

Eagles said the supply problems were real, but the government needed to fix it and “move on.”

“That is absolutely essential because our Building Code is regrettable by international standards.”

Current lows were set in 2008 at lower levels than in parts of the world with similar climates.

“We are at the foot of a significant change,” Eagles said.

“We are not six years old.

“We need to prepare the industry to show them that this is real … marking in two years that you can deal with the problems of the supply chain, that you are going to get that 140mm.

“And besides, there will be even bigger changes three years later.”

Thicker is not a problem

Building thicker walls in thousands of homes is not the capacity problem it might seem.

Marty Verry, CEO of the largest sawmill Red Stag, said that as long as the spacing between the studs is increased, by changing the standard, the amount of lumber that will enter a home will be about the same.

“Our comments [to the ministry] … is that if you’re doing, let’s call it, six by two, rather than four by two, then you can really get more of that volume out of a sawmill.

“So this change would actually increase the volume capacity of the sawmill sector in New Zealand.

“There is less sawing, less planning and less processing. And there is less waste,” Verry said.

While the wood shortage was the worst he had ever experienced, this was not a reason not to go for wider frames, he said.

“We have had limited consultations and have certainly not been considered before making this final decision.

“If the reason is that they don’t want to put pressure on the sawmill industry, then that’s a decision that we really haven’t had a chance to illustrate them about.”

Reconfiguration of the timber frame should be considered once immediate pressures are relieved, Verry said.

Poles that are further apart have another advantage: Research from last year shows that about a third of a wall is made of wood, much more than expected, and filters heat from the inside out; the calculations establishing insulation minima have not taken this into account correctly. Widely spaced studs would reduce such a thermal bridge.

The Green Building Council believes that buyers can cope with the stricter Building Code as builders learn to drive and the additional upfront costs pay for themselves over time.

the Annual Health Benefits of Better Insulation. At least half a billion dollars have been put in.

The ministry said taking the bolder approach required a “change of direction from current ways of designing and constructing buildings.”

“A longer transition period and a phased approach would be expected to implement these changes.”

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