Gab Learns – New Builds
Peter has friends (many by the way) who are buying new builds (off the plan) from volume home builders, and he’s seen a lot of advertisements marketing these as ‘green’, ‘eco-efficient’, dry, etc. – but how do you really know what that means, and are we being fooled by marketing buzz words? I put myself in the buyer’s shoes, and Peter asks me what I would be looking for or asking these group home builders about my new home. It’s not only fun for us to chat about, but we wanted to highlight some of the questions consumers should be asking before making any big commitments.
Let’s just clarify one big one that stands out as a buzz word often seen in marketing – code compliant.
Code compliant is the BARE MINIMUM requirement for building a home or building. So be very careful on what is being delivered here, because a home that is only code compliant is a basic, bare minimum home – selling a building any worse than that would be illegal.
Back to being in the buyer’s shoes. Firstly, I would ask about the windows – which is a good place to start. A lot of these group home builders use ‘double glazing’ as part of their marketing messaging, however double-glazed windows are actually mandatory in the code (so this shouldn’t really be used as a WOW factor, or selling point for new builds). We also know (from our previous podcast Windows & Condensation) that double glazed doesn’t mean they are necessarily great windows, glazing is just the glass component.
What else do you ask for in terms of windows?
- Are they thermally broken! YES (another topic we’ve discussed in a previous podcast).
- Are there coatings on the windows? YES. While having a warm, dry, and comfortable home is what we should all be striving to achieve, you also want to make sure you are not going to have issues of overheating. Low e-coatings on windows not only help cut out the sun in the summer and stop the home from overheating, but they also help in winter – they increase R-value of your window overall so in the same way the coating reflects heat outwards, it also reflects heat inwards.
- Where are the windows located? This is something you will be able to see in the renders or show home and worth noting. What you are looking for is if the windows are recessed (particularly if they are thermally broken windows) so they are pulled back in line with the insulation. If the glass and cladding are basically in line with each other than this is not what you want. Why? Because if you have thermally broken joinery installed in this position, there’s a good chance the thermal break is hanging too far outside, which means cold air will be touching the interior part of the frame, defeating the entire purpose of the thermal break.
- What is the window joinery/hardware made of? How does the hardware operate, think about the way it opens, closes, and locks? Some systems are good, some close nice, airtight and locks firmly. Others don’t. Head to the show home and test the specific product. And ask if the example in the show home is the exact window profile being used on the build.
I’d also ask about insulation. Again, insulation is code compliant. However, with the new H1 changes in November the wall insulation is the same as now, but the roof insulation will change and if it’s on a concrete slab then there will be slab insulation.
- What is the size of the framing in the walls? Is it 90mm or 140mm? Are the cavities being filled with insulation? Sometimes the 140mm framing has insulation inside but not completely filled, so then you are dealing with gaps and air leakage.
- What about roof insulation, is there any there? The bare minimum for code is R3 which is going up to R6.6 – this doesn’t change a lot as R3 is probably enough in Auckland, as the roof requirements were updated in previous iterations. But if you’re in some of the colder parts of the country, you’ll want the thicker insulation.
We know ventilation is key, and if you didn’t check out season one of the podcast! Full home heating is great. If it has a heat pump in one room but no other heating in other rooms, you’re going to have to put heaters in to keep it comfortable. But ideally, full home heating and full home ventilation is what you want. Currently we don’t think there are any home builders offering this as a standard option (we would LOVE to be proved wrong on this), but it might be available as an additional cost, which in the long run would definitely pay for itself in comfort and energy efficiency. Something to think about!
- Is there a green rating? What exactly makes this green?
- Have they modelled the energy of the house?
- Will they be doing any airtightness testing (blower door test) of the house?
Other great things to ask about is other developments (if they’ve done any), and ask people that are living in those developments – check if there have been any issues etc.
And if it’s available – go for the ducted heating and ventilation upgrade (not the gold taps)! It makes a huge difference and will be a great feature to put in the real estate listing if you ever decide to sell.