Community Scoop

A 6 Star House for Palmerston North

Press Release – UCOL

UCOL is leading a project to design and build a cost-effective, sustainable eco house that demonstrates energy and health benefits compared to a code standard build.
Thursday 26 July 2012
A 6 Star House for Palmerston North
UCOL is leading a project to design and build a cost-effective, sustainable eco house that demonstrates energy and health benefits compared to a code standard build.

The aim is to show people that with the right skills and knowledge, a sustainable, healthy house is within the reach of most people. UCOL Construction students will learn best practice during the project and UCOL is also running seminars for the building industry.

Lead builder, UCOL lecturer Matt Cassells, says: “The message is simple: We are building better, right here in Palmerston North – and showing people they can do the same, without spending a fortune.”

The 6 Star House is a partnership between UCOL, the Palmerston North City Council and United Way, an independent, not-for-profit Organisation that encourages generosity by brokering resources (money, time and skills) between individuals, businesses and the community.

As a partnership, the 6 Star House project is a first in New Zealand. United Way will benefit from the sale of the house. Chief Executive Don Oliver says the project delivers the three pillars or triple bottom line of sustainability – environmental, social equity and economic demands. “It also fits with United Way’s policy of working alongside individuals, businesses and the community to provide resources in local areas.”

Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor says the 6 Star House is in line with the Palmerston North City Council’s Sustainable City Strategy. “The strategy includes promoting affordable, healthy housing that will reduce energy consumption, improve people’s health and support the local economy. It’s great to see Palmerston North and UCOL leading the way with this project, as the home of sustainable, healthy and economical building practices.”

The house will be built by UCOL Construction students, supervised by lecturers (all Licensed Building Practitioners). Matt Cassells says the students will gain valuable experience in a real life project, building to best standards and practices. “We will also be offering to share our knowledge and expertise at seminars for the public and the building industry. And although the site is closed to the public as an operational building site, trades professionals are welcome to come along and discuss construction features with UCOL staff. We will also hold public open days.”

Matt notes that the 6 Star House project follows changes to the criteria for Licensed Building Practitioners, with an increased emphasis on education and training, sustainable and best practice.

The site, on the corner of Tremaine Avenue and Shelley Street (across from the old Sunbeam factory), is preparing for building now.

The project will be launched at 12.00 on Monday 30 July. The launch will be attended by the Major Jono Naylor, representatives of United Way, UCOL and other local organisations, as well as UCOL Construction students.


The 6 Star House will demonstrate the following principles:

Best practice – utilise and demonstrate best practice design and building techniques.
Do-able – constructed using proven techniques and design that could be constructed using proven products.
Liveable – be at least as comfortable and healthy as a code standard equivalent and have aesthetic appeal to the ‘average’ homeowner.
Affordable – the build cost will be no more than 10 per cent higher than a code standard equivalent.
Low energy – will require significantly less energy to maintain and run than a code standard equivalent.
Healthy – will achieve World Health Organisation minimum indoor temperatures (18 degrees Celsius) within constraints of the low energy principle.
Durable – will require no more on-going maintenance than a code standard equivalent and will last significantly longer than a code standard house.


The 6 Star House has a number of innovative design features that make the house sustainable and healthy whilst still remaining affordable.

The single most important design feature is the size of the house itself. The footprint has been reduced to 111m2 but the functionality of the home has not been compromised. Reducing the floor area to maximise functionality and minimise dead space reduces the amount of materials needed to build the house as well as reducing on-going maintenance.

Window placement and size is also a key design feature. Window area has been maximised on the intended sunny side of the house to optimise solar gain. Solar shading will be used to ensure the home does not overheat during summer. The windows themselves will be double glazed timber to maximise thermal performance whilst minimising the environmental impact of the product itself.

Other non-standard features that are intended to optimise resource usage in the long run include extra thick external walls and insulation, the use of durable low impact building materials where cost effective, solar panels, a wood burner with wetback system, low flow shower heads and toilets, and a rainwater collection system.

The 6 Star House will also meet the requirements of Lifemark, an independent seal of approval awarded to homes that have been designed and built to be easy and safe to live in – for a lifetime. It meets Lifemark requirements by being a single story dwelling with wide door frames and allowance for wheelchair turning circles in some bedrooms and the bathroom. The house also includes a level access shower and power points accessible to someone in a wheelchair.

The workmanship of the build team is vital. In order for the various sustainable design features to be effective it is vital that the house is constructed to the highest standard. Examples include ensuring windows and insulation are correctly installed for maximum efficiency.


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