Ecological Living In New Zealand

Joe Lyth and his family live in a passive house near Auckland, New Zealand, which is a big change from their former home in London. The ethos that made this architect design such an eco-friendly home for his own family applies to all aspects of their life.

“We hardly ever buy anything new,” architect Joe Lyth admits, and his young family manages perfectly well. Some cabinetry is from the side of the road; the dining table was used; the sofas came from a friend; and the shelves are from a second hand store. “The only new thing is this one sofa, which we bought when we got a present of some money from my Granny at home (in England).”

Recycled building materials are also featured throughout the house. The kitchen has open shelving, not built-in cabinetry.  At present there are clothing racks made from leftover timbers.

And the bathrooms feature a waterproof exterior cladding wall lining that he won in a Facebook competition. They have recycled timber flooring in the bathrooms, and there is a recycled carpet in the main bedroom.

When he built the house Lyth said he was trying to keep his children healthy. “They were getting sick in our code-minimum moldy rental. We had to get them into a healthy home.”

This house is conditioned by a mechanical heat recovery system, has triple-glazed windows, and features shading that mitigates the solar gains in the summer, while allowing the warmth into the house during the winter months.

Lyth is constantly evaluating decisions the couple make. “Everything is weighed up,” he says. “Solar panels are really carbon heavy from manufacturing and recycling. And because we are so low-energy already in this house, it will probably take about 35 years to pay back a solar system (in carbon savings).” But using the power for EVs could save them both money and carbon miles.

Most of the children’s clothes are from friends who have passed on items their own children have outgrown. “We actually buy very little. My mum tends to send stuff over (from England). All of their jumpers are made by my mum, and Joe’s mum sews.”

The couple have planted a lot of trees on their land, which was formerly pasture. These include olive trees, apples, pears and apricot trees, plus a lot of citrus. They also grow vegetables and maintain a compost pit – there are two adopted pigs that provide good manure for the compost. And the family has chickens for a ready supply of eggs.

It’s a lifestyle choice for the family that is already paying off in energy savings, and will do more in the future.

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