Selecting a site to achieve sustainability goals

Zero Energy House

Site selection

Jo and Shay began their Zero Energy House project by establishing seven clear goals and identifying design opportunities that would impact each of them. It was clear from the outset that the choice of site would impact many of the design opportunities and therefore whether they could achieve their goals for the project.

Specific impacts the site would have on the project included:

  • Construction costs and, in some cases, the construction materials.
  • The layout of the house.
  • Passive solar features that could be included in the design.
  • The ability to utilise natural ventilation.
  • The flow between internal and external spaces.
  • The character of the house.
  • The general ambience of the house and the occupant's well-being and happiness.

Shay and Jo determined a range of requirements against which to assess the sites they visited around Auckland, which included:

  • Aspect: north-facing would allow passive solar features to be designed-in, reducing energy demand for heating.
  • Ease of build: a flat site would be easier (and potentially cheaper) to build on.
  • Access to amenities, work, the city, friends.
  • Connections to local cycle & public transport networks.

The site they selected performed well against each of these requirements, and ultimately enabled them to achieve the goals set for their project.

‍Prior to site works commencing, May 2010.
‍Following completion, mid-2013.

Considering transport

Two project goals Jo and Shay set that would be particularly impacted by their choice of site were Health & Comfort and Low Pollutant Emissions. Some of the first sites they looked at were rural and on the outskirts of Auckland. While these had magnificent scenery and privacy, the couple ultimately decided these sites would significantly affect the lifestyle they wanted for their family and have negative impacts on their environmental goals.

The site chosen for the Zero Energy House is located in the suburb of Point Chevalier, on the western fringe of central Auckland. The suburb has great transport links to the city, cycleways to surrounding areas, and much of what the now-family-of-four needs is close by, including a supermarket, schools, cafes, pubs, and shops. The location has meant the family is within easy travel distance of many of the places they go on a daily basis. This has a number of benefits:

  • Reduces the amount of time spent travelling.
  • Reduces reliance on a car to see friends, go to the shops, and just generally get around.
  • Walking and cycling helps the family to stay fit and healthy.
  • Allows the family to use public transport to get to many of the places they can't walk or cycle to - helping keep their carbon footprint small.
North-western cycle route (indicated with blue line) enables Shay and Jo to cycle to work in the central city in around half an hour.

Building placement

While the location of the house on the site was largely determined by Auckland Council's District Plan requirements, the couple tried to maximise the garden size to the North and East. This created indoor spaces that link to outside, allowing interaction with the street while giving the family some  privacy. It also provided a reasonably-sized sunny garden, good for growing fruit and vegetables onsite thereby contributing to the project goals of Low Pollutant Emissions (by reducing transport of offsite produce) and Health & Comfort.

From the first storey there are pleasant views over Western Springs park and even a glimpse of the water from north facing windows.

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