Auckland architect Joe Lyth is so passionate about passive houses, it was a given he would use that model when it came to designing a house for his own young family.
Lower Saddle, the “red-barn” home he built in Tahekeroa, just north of the city, is a testament to the fact that high-performance buildings can be produced for a similar cost to a standard New Zealand house.
His project, which featured in a Superhome story on Stuff in October, has just been shortlisted for an NZIA Auckland Housing Award and it was a finalist in the Home of the Year awards.
Lyth, of Respond Architects, has always been on a journey towards this end, having spent years designing houses beyond the building code. And he has two main incentives: “I am trying to keep my kids healthy,” he says. “They were getting sick in our code-minimum mouldy rental. We had to get them into a healthy home and we had to show it did not have to cost the earth.”
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Lyth, husband of Sarah, and father to Lily, 4, Emily, 2, and William, 6 months, even gave up one day a week to help the builders on site, which he says was an incredibly valuable experience: “It definitely improved me as an architect.”
And the stunning red exterior? Lyth says it was inspired by older red barns commonly seen in a rural landscape.
“Externally the project has a quite traditional appearance which belies its modern fabric. Vertical board and battens, and a metal roof, blend the home into the rural vernacular, while a wide, covered deck provides year-round outdoor living. Totara from a friend’s farm up north was used for window surrounds.’’
But it is what is behind the scenes that makes this house even more special.
The architect says people have this belief that building a highly energy-efficient passive house is too expensive. But just dropping the size of your home by 10 per cent will not affect your lifestyle and gives you so much more.
To keep costs down, Lyth came up with a compact three-bedroom design with a well-insulated, airtight envelope that provides a healthy interior environment with minimal heating costs.
“The interior fit-out is basic and functional to keep costs down. It can be upgraded as budgets allow in the future,” he says.
To further help reduce costs, robust plywood linings feature on interior walls and the exposed SIP (structural insulated panels) are painted.
As with all passive houses, this one is conditioned by a mechanical heat recovery system. High-specification, double-glazed windows and shading mitigate the solar gains in the summer, while allowing the warmth into the house during the winter months.
In the original plan, provision was made in the design for a future staircase up to a master bedroom, ensuite, dressing area and mezzanine area. Lyth says it was decided to add that second storey in at the start “to get the value up to the build cost”.
And that overall cost for the 168 square-metre build was $437,614.30 + GST, which worked out to $2600 + GST per square metre.
Lyth says the extra space on the second floor ensures this is a home that will accommodate “generations to come”.
The results of the NZIA Auckland regional architecture awards will be announced on August 17, 2022.