Ara’s red zone house to model sustainable urban living

News News & events

11 Apr 2016

Whare on Barbadoes St The red zoned WHARE will be used as a research and training facility for architectural, engineering and trades students.

Ara Institute of Canterbury has Christchurch's older housing stock in its sights and is responding to the sustainability challenge posed by poorly performing houses with a project that will demonstrate how a few cost effective improvements can make a huge difference to quality of living.

The WHARE, (Warm, Healthy, Affordable and Resource Efficient) project is now operational, using a house donated by Southern Response who also relocated the house from the Kaiapoi Red Zone to Ara's City campus on Madras Street.

"With the WHARE we are retrofitting a facility that will provide real world learning for our students while contributing to the understanding and application of international best practice solutions for more sustainable urban living," WHARE Research Project Leader and Research Chair, Engineering and Architectural Studies, Rory Greenan said.

"Whether they are engineering, architectural design or trades students, we want them to understand how to apply best practice in retrofit and enhancing the thermal performance of buildings. We are focusing on affordable solutions that can be applied to typical Canterbury homes."

The house, a 1960s bungalow that is typical of much of Christchurch's older housing stock, will remain 'as is' to be monitored over a winter cycle to establish base data. Options for improvement will then be applied, such as natural ventilation, thermal insulation, air tightness layers and alternative energy sources, and the house will again be monitored for another cycle so that results can be compared. The house has had 80 sensors inside the cavities and 100 inside the house distributed in rooms, attic and the floor void, while outside has a weather station installed all to collect data, air and surface temperatures and humidity internally and externally.

"The holistic, coordinated interventions we're using can make huge improvements to home air quality and comfort, such as eliminating the risk of condensation and mould and saving up to 70% of the costs of heating and cooling."

While the WHARE is primarily a research and training centre for Ara students and tutors in architectural studies, engineering and trades, it may also be used to host professional development workshops and community outreach sessions.

Through all stages of monitoring and retrofit WHARE will provide a place where students can undertake projects, practice trades skills and learn about how improvements impact on performance.

Other foundation partners that have supported the project are the Ara Foundation providing seed funding, Hawkins providing apprentices, Innovo providing project management and a donated heat pump, as well as Melray Electrical, Clyne and Bennie and Mico Plumbing. Hawkins apprentices who have worked on the site are graduates of Ara's He Toki ki te Rika (Māori Trades Training) programme.

Ara looks forward to working with other partners to refurbish the house once the initial data is collected and will publicise the project findings amongst the institute's partners and industry groups.

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) says the project has the potential to improve the thermal envelope and air quality of New Zealand homes. General Manager Residential Robert Linterman says the project is based in Canterbury but the findings may be applicable to other parts of the country.