CPIT houses a sustainable success story

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23 Dec 2015

CPIT student houses are a good example of sustainable construction

CPIT student houses are a good example of sustainable construction

Student built houses are being snapped up by Build Green, a Christchurch based sustainable building engineering company. Students construct the houses as part of their CPIT Certificate in Carpentry course to give them real world experience.

Anne MacKenzie of Build Green said she was attracted to the houses because they were so energy efficient and so appropriate for Christchurch.

"We've orientated them towards the sun and they just absorb the sun's heat. They have really good insulation and stay really warm. Furthermore, the wooden frame makes them stand up well to earthquakes," MacKenzie says.

Build Green specialises in designing and constructing environmentally sustainable buildings and the company's interest in CPIT's buildings is a sign of the high standards CPIT sets for its students.

"These homes are good. They are built offsite which is better for the environment and leads to higher quality because the construction takes place in a controlled environment. Furthermore, they are made of pinus radiata timber which is sustainably grown. This sort of construction should be supported. It's good for New Zealand designers, and for New Zealand industry."

CPIT constructs two to three houses a year as part of its building and carpentry course and involves students from electrical engineering, plumbing and joinery to complete the houses as serviceable units. The two-bedroom houses have a floor area of 75 square metres and take students approximately 72 half days to construct a single dwelling.

Student teams work on the construction with up to 15 people working at any one time. In addition to providing practical experience for building students, the homes also give electrical, plumbing and joinery students the chance to work on a real building as it is going up, learning vital skills for working on construction sites and subdivisions.

The buildings are sold at cost with no labour charges included. The current wooden frame buildings being sold at $115,000 and the steel frame buildings being sold at $105,000 and often generate interest within the community, CPIT's Building and Carpentry Manager Alistair Smith says.

"We often sell them by word of mouth. Sometimes we put them on TradeMe. It doesn't take long to sell them," Smith says.However, he warns that the buildings aren't simply a matter of picking them up and putting them down.

"The houses are completed but they need finishing. Floor coverings, drapes and other decoration work needs to be done, but that's best left to the personal tastes of the new owner," Alistair says.

Consents are also needed to be able to move the houses.

"We get a consent for the house, the wiring and the plumbing, but the purchaser needs to get a consent for foundations and to remove the house. Often they're loaded up during the day and then at about 2am they relocate the house to the property. Afterwards they need to be connected to power and other utilities. Relocation costs for Christchurch locations are about $20,000, depending on the site."

While the consents process can take up to three months, Build Green has had positive experiences with it.

"We were working with a company that had lost its premises after the earthquake. We bought a CPIT house to use as an office and the company was able to start operating again two weeks later," MacKenzie says.

"The consents process is no problem, all you need is a geotech and structural engineer. The buildings themselves are fully up to standard, and well made. This is an ideal opportunity to pick up a readymade building."