In July 2019, the New Zealand government implemented legislation on the standards of healthy homes. This act ensures that homes are in good shape and new house plans are built according to specific safety standards. The act outlines six standards that houses must follow.
A new house design must incorporate all these elements, and landlords must ensure their existing property is up to standard. Healthy houses promote good physical and mental health in the inhabitants.
The Six Must-Haves
Six critical factors are considered to determine whether a house is up to standard. A fine between $500 to $900 can be imposed if these standards aren’t met, and a landlord can even receive an infringement notice.
For a house to satisfy the heating requirement, there must be at least one built-in heater that sufficiently heats the house’s main living room. This heater must be one of the approved types and heat the room to the minimum temperature of around 18°C.
For the insulation standard to be fulfilled, the house’s floors and ceilings must be sufficiently insulated. The insulation must meet the 2008 Building Code requirements when designing new house plans, specifically H1- insulation. (note there are significant increases to this code during 2022 and 2023). The location of your home determines which ‘climate zone’ it’s within, and different rules apply for each zone for the wall, ceiling and floor insulation.
Good ventilation is crucial to physical health, and all the house’s main rooms, like the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms, must have windows that can open to prevent mould and dampness. Further, extractor fans or other approved ventilation systems must be in the kitchen and bathrooms.
You must install a proper ground moisture barrier if a home has a sublevel, like a basement, in direct contact with the ground. This ensures the moisture won’t rise into the home and create mould between the flooring.
Proper drainage ensures water doesn’t collect inside the house and causes water damage. There should be a suitable amount of gutters and pipes to ensure water, whether surface, ground or stormwater, is removed from the property.
Draughts are created when a house has gaps or holes in the walls, doors, windows and other surfaces. A new house design must ensure that there are no unnecessary gaps. A landlord must fill any unreasonable gaps in surfaces like walls and doors and block unused chimneys and fireplaces to prevent draughts.
Although the energy efficiency rating isn’t an independent standard, it’s a big part of satisfying the insulation standard. The R-value needs to be sufficient for the climate zone of the house’s location. The current acceptable R-value of ceiling insulation is 2.9 or 3.3, however the H1 building code has been amended and on 1st May 2023 all ceilings will be required to have an R value of 6.6.
This is a large step for the building industry in NZ, toward better insulated homes for Kiwis. Floor and wall insulation requirements are also increasing so the entire building envelope is being improved.
Better insulation means both heating and cooling the home is more efficient, as the floor, ceilings and walls are providing a better barrier to thermal movement.
Keep Your Home Healthy
Ensuring a new house design follows all the standards of a healthy home is vital if you want the plans approved to start construction. Further, existing properties and rental homes must comply with these standards to ensure the landlords and owners aren’t fined or given an infringement notice. Your health is important and living in a healthy home is the first step to ensuring excellent health.