Business North August 2022

| 97 Respond Architects Healthy homes on a smaller budget Virginia Wright The Lower Saddle Passive House was a finalist in Home Magazine’s Home of the Year 2022. The first of Respond Architects Passive House Certified homes, it was to be completed with a budget of $503,400 including GST. ARCHITECTURE Joe Lyth is one of the original group of 10 architects, graduates and designers who in 2016 set up Respond Architects with an office in Takapuna. Six years later they have expanded to have offices in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown with a staff of around 26. Joe puts their growth down to the simple fact that they do good work. “As a practice we’re quite realistic, and while we’re not cost consultants, we are always very mindful of budget and buildability. We always do what we can to produce designs that balance a clients brief with their budget, something that is especially challenging in the current market” says Joe. Their work includes one-off residential builds and residential developments as well as clients such as the Ministry of Education, Honda NZ and the Oceania Football Confederation, with budgets ranging from the few hundred thousands to the multi-millions. RA have always sought to design better buildings, and in 2018 Joe and one of the RA directors Natasha Cockerell went on a Passive House training course before Joe took the next step to be a Certified Passive House Designer. He had some knowledge of Passive House from his university days in London, and he’s been passionate about that sort of work ever since. “We do a lot of Passive House and high performance projects and believe that performance doesn’t necessarily have to cost more if you consider it from the start, while balancing your priorities” says Joe. What this might mean in practice, depending on the budget in play, is choosing a $20,000 kitchen rather than a $50,000 one and putting the $30,000 saved towards better windows and doors, a balanced ventilation system, and other features to increase the performance of the home. Joe is well prepared to put his own money where his mouth is as can be seen with the decisions made while building his own family home, the first of Respond Architects Passive House Certified homes to be completed, a year ago, with a budget of $503,400 including GST for the entire construction. “We wanted to show New Zealand that you can build a truly healthy home on a smaller budget,” says Joe. Some of the decisions this brought with it include keeping their chipboard floors without any floor finishes. The roof and exterior walls, the all-important insulation envelope of the house, are constructed with SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels), themselves made of two pieces of OSB (Oriented Strand Board) sandwiched together with a layer of insulation in between. With the OSB a waste product made from wood chips, and most glues these days no longer emitting toxic gas, that’s considered to be at least a carbon balanced, if not carbon positive, timber product, and the inside is just painted for the finish. The interior walls are lined with plywood “which we’ll varnish eventually” says Joe. “It was an exercise in seeing how much we could get the budget down and what happened if we prioritised the performance of the building rather than things like granite bench tops. Now that we’re in we can save up for a better kitchen or nicer bathrooms if we want.” The resulting “Lower Saddle Passive House” was a finalist in Home Magazine’s Home of the Year 2022, and now sits alongside multi-million dollar builds in this year’s NZIA (New Zealand Institute of Architecture) Awards 2022. It was Respond Architects’ first Passive House build and it seems to have struck a chord, with a lot of the work Joe’s doing now coming off the back of it. “People are coming in saying ‘I’ve only got 500k’, or, ‘I’ve got just less than a million, do you think it would work’? Because most people don’t want some flash one-off architectural design, they just want a healthy home they can afford,” says Joe. He’s quick to acknowledge that it’s a difficult balance, as many people don’t want to make the sort of compromises he and his family made to keep their budget down. Nevertheless, if he adds on a percentage to allow for any supply deals that may have been part and parcel of being an architect, he estimates that their 169 m² house with a 50 m² covered deck, came in at roughly $3000 per m² for a triple-glazed, Certified Passive House with all the ongoing energy savings and health benefits that come with it. How it fares among all the other houses up for the Architectural Awards remains to be seen but regardless, for Joe, the future is bright as people begin to understand that property should be seen not just as a financial investment, but as something that should be a comfortable home for any and everyone. He believes that with the changing expectations, and ongoing upgrades to the Building Code this is inevitably the future, “so the quicker we do it the better. We’d like to have a habitable planet in the future please,” says Joe emphatically. “We wanted to show New Zealand that you can build a truly healthy home on a smaller budget.” B U I L D G R O U P 09 216 8257 @kanebuildgroup @hphomesnz Proudly supporting Respond Architects