Zero Energy House

New Zealand's first Zero Energy-certified building.

Shay Brazier and Jo Woods introduced a new standard of building to New Zealand with their Zero Energy House project. Their home was the first building in the country to achieve Zero Energy certification, which requires the home to generate over the course of a year as much energy as they use.

Many aspects of the project are typical, allowing it to provide lessons others can learn from.

But while the house represents a big step forward in building performance, many aspects of the project are typical and allow it to provide lessons other people can learn from. The home was built in urban Auckland, the site is of a similar size to many detached homes in the city and the architects and contractors used had no prior experience in sustainable design or construction.

The main advantage Shay and Jo brought to the project was their experience as engineers in the building industry. They were heavily involved in the entire process to create the Zero Energy House, not only as clients making informed choices but also as part of the design team. Jo developed a thermal model to optimise the  performance of the building envelope, and Shay’s background in solar allowed him to optimise many aspects of the home for energy generation. By working closely with the architects through a structured process and integrated approach to design they were able to make sure the house was in the best position to achieve Zero Energy. Aware not all projects have access to this level of expertise, Shay and Jo shared their journey in detail with an online audience though articles and videos posted on the project website.

Shay and Jo now live in the Zero Energy House with their two children. The home is made up of two volumes – a ‘living’ block and a ‘play/work’ block –and looks just like an ordinary home from the street. Simple rectangular shapes with gabled roofs that support an integrated PV array were carefully designed and built to ensure the house was comfortable and healthy year-round without the need for heating or cooling systems. Materials were chosen with their lifecycle in mind, with preference given to those that required minimal energy during processing, manufacture and transportation. Another goal that influenced the design and construction of the house was the reduction of water use - systems to capture rainwater and recirculate greywater were installed, and all the fittings used are highly water efficient.

The Zero Energy House demonstrates it is possible to achieve the highest energy goals while at the same time providing a comfortable, healthy family home.

Shay and Jo continue to think of new ways to reduce their impact on the environment and make the most of the resources the house provides. They recently bought an electric vehicle that can be charged using energy from the sun, and are also trialling a battery that will allow them to store surplus energy generated during the day so that it can be used at night.

By creating the Zero Energy House Shay and Jo have successfully demonstrated it is possible to achieve the highest energy goals while at the same time providing a comfortable, healthy family home. And by sharing the process followed and lessons learned along the way, Shay and Jo aim to help others do the same.

Looking for more information?

Sust contains a wealth of articles about the Zero Energy House project - from the factors that guided Jo and Shay's earliest decisions around site selection, to data demonstrating the first year of Zero Energy performance.

View articles

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