Energy Efficiency in the Eastern Suburbs


The situation

A 675m2 site in Seatoun was purchased in November 2014 to become the family home and Bright Build Office and Workshop.

With the Christchurch earthquake fresh in everyone’s mind, Craig wanted to build a strong home on a rib-raft slab foundation.

To reduce carbon footprint of travel between work and home, it was important for the office and workshop to co-locate on the same site as the house.

Craig’s research and experience had shown him that homes built to (and above) the New Zealand Building Code, were still inadequate for New Zealand (and in particular, Wellington’s) climate.

With the longest boundary nearly north-facing, Craig also wanted to test the use of solar energy production in Wellington. The aim being to build using the best available techniques and see if they really did improve the outcome for the occupants of the home.

The client's wish list

  • To create the Bright Build office, workshop and healthy home for six people that is warm in winter, cool in summer, and provides fresh, clean air at all times.
  • Economic to heat and cool via reduced energy needs.
  • Solar generating to reduce our energy footprint, with the potential for self-sufficiency utilising batteries in the future.
  • Utilise world-class insulation techniques to construct a home that requires little energy to maintain a comforatable temperature.
  • Stronger, more resilient structure in the case of earthquake.

The solution

Craig and Jen worked out the brief for the new home and work premises. Using this as a guide, Craig used 3D architecture software and worked out the floorplan that best utilised the allowable site cover and rooms required.

Hours were spent researching, attending trade shows, talking to Passive Home Architects and Structured Insulated Panel (SIPs) providers. This resulted in the selection of Formance as the SIP system to use. Inovo Architects in Christchurch then prepared these plans in readiness for building consent.

Being the first Formance House in Wellington (and a complex structure at that) meant that Craig had to engage with the local expert engineers, who became familiar with the Formance system over the course of the project.

Now Formance has been accredited to NZS3604.  This means that architects and designers can follow the tables and apply the correct SIPs – without the need for an engineer.

The result

Let’s start from the ground up. The home and Bright Build office utilises a rib-raft slab contains polystyrene pods within it, which assist with energy conservation. Rib-raft foundations are useful in earthquake prone areas as they allow the building to “float” (the concrete floor construction sits “on” the ground, rather than “in”), making it seismically strong. Compared to standard foundation methods, the components fit together easily, reducing labour time and costs.

Arrival of the panels was significant as 10 tons of SIPs were delivered to site. Once sorted, the giant jigsaw came together quickly, just as Formance promised. Given the variety of architectural features in the home (e.g. very high raking ceilings, visible central ceiling apex), Craig and the Bright Build team became expert at devising techniques to assist the construction – no mean feat when faced with 5.7m long panels, 1.2m wide and .265m thick, weighing over 150kg – that had to be suspended 4.5m in the air with no space for a crane to access.

Once the envelope was up, in Winter 2016 Craig and the team noticed it was the warmest building they had ever worked on – even before the joinery went in! And after the Thermal Heart, argon filled, low-emission joinery was installed, the insulating properties were even more pronounced.

The building walls and roof (with a combined floor area of 390m2) were quick to erect. Another benefit was the ability to immediately see the view afforded to each room – traditionally this only happens once the cladding is completed.

Now finished and lived in, Craig and Jen have found that the benefits of Passive House principles and using SIPs are true.  And their new SIPs home sits comfortably at 21-22 degrees during winter without any heating.

With the high level of insulation in the walls and joinery, Jen and Craig have also noticed the serene feel to the internal environment of the home. Also, the continual provision of fresh air and extraction of stale air makes the house airy yet peaceful as there is no need to open windows and the accompanying wind noise and draughts.

Since building, the SIPs and rib-raft foundation have handled Wellington’s shakes very well. So well in fact, that when inside, Craig hasn’t felt a nearby, shallow magnitude 5 earthquake – which panicked the neighbours!

The solar array have proven to be a big contributor to reducing net energy consumption for the household. Also, given Wellington’s chilly breezes, use of a pool in Wellington can be limited to a few summer months. However utilising the solar panels to provide power for heating the pool means the usable weeks for swimming are more than doubled – greatly improving the return on investment.

Construction Facts

  • Floor area – 390m2

  • Constructed – 2016 / 2017

  • Slab – Rib-raft

  • Walls and Roof – Structured Insulated Panels (SIPs)

  • Ventiliation – Zehnder

  • Solar – 24 Panels, maximum capacity 6 W.

Miramar Make-Over


The situation

A Bright Build client purchased a two-bedroom home in Wellington, built in a transitional villa style.

The house had potential, with a high stud and generous hallway, however the layout and décor belonged to another era…

• The kitchen was tucked away in a dark room.

• The bathroom was cramped (with no bath).

• The laundry was very long and narrow.

• An enclosed area to the rear of the home was under utilised, as was a spare shed and a space that was formerly an aviary. 

• Outdoor living was minimal.

• The house/outbuildings had limited visual appeal.

The client's wish list

• Bright Build was tasked with creating a light, airy home with a contemporary feel. 

• A request was made for open-plan living, along with indoor-outdoor flow.

• We were asked to find space within the existing foot-print for a third bedroom and a second living area, without compromising existing rooms.

• Family friendly was a must – addition of a bath was required, and the grounds needed to be fenced and made safe for small children.

• Improvement to both outdoor living and the visual appearance of the exterior was also required.

The solution

Craig developed a plan that would provide our clients with their wish list, whilst also minimising structual alterations in order to maximise the available budget. 
A walk-through meeting enabled our clients to understand, question and discuss the proposed plan.  With the final plan agreed by our clients, we engaged  an architect on their behalf and had the plans prepared for the Council.

Kitchen/Third bedroom/Indoor-outdoor flow



Craig identified that relocating the kitchen from it’s original position in a back room into a larger room (the lounge) would provide open plan living. This move provided better natural light (and sun), created a feeling of spaciousness and also improved access to the kitchen from the front door.

Incorporating French doors into an existing window space enabled indoor-outdoor flow from the living area, with only minor alteration. The additional light helped create an airy feel, and a low deck was created off the doors to allow better connection with the lawn area.

Pulling up the carpet revealed the beautiful matai floors which were sanded and polished. The fireplace was also removed to provide more floor space in the living area.

Craig identified a new modern kitchen layout and installed this into the open-plan area. Two doorways were removed from the lounge area, enabling the previous kitchen to become the third bedroom space, and providing wall-space for the new kitchen.




A doorway was eliminated and a wall was partially removed to open up the very narrow laundry and bathroom into a single, partitioned room. This created space for a stand-alone bath, and also provided additional natural light into the previously dark bathroom.

The bathroom and laundry fittings were all replaced, as was the floor covering. Relocation of the laundry tub and washing machine to the corner of the room, kept them out of the busier bathroom circulation area.

Second Living Area



The backyard garage was repurposed into a studio/office/games room, that could change with the owner’s requirements.  Replacement of the garage door to a ranchslider improved both access and natural light. A ceiling was created, and the skylights framed out with diffuser screens to improve aesthetics. To finish the room, garage carpet was installed due to it’s hardwearing, stain resistant nature.




Originally the entrance was very uninviting, with some basic concrete steps leading directly to the front door. To improve the entrance, timber stairs and a generous landing were added, along with a white balustrade and handrail balustrade, and paint accents around the front door.  This ensured the first impression matched the lovely home within.   

Additional improvements



Repainting was undertaken throughout the interior of the home, the back porch, second living area, and some of the exterior. Lighting was improved and modernised, and bedrooms painted and recarpeted.

The hallway ceiling was altered to replicate the ceiling detail installed in the second living space, and a custom shelving display was built in a small corner created by the removal of a door.

Outdoor Area



The addition of a low deck and french doors created child-friendly indoor-outdoor flow, and provided easy access from the kitchen/living area to the larger, fenced, outdoor living area.

The aviary was transformed into a tool shed, and given a clean-line, modern exterior.

The front fence was partially removed to provide more area for outdoor seating, and realigned to form a larger, secure backyard.

Removal of the ramp and handrail at the back door transformed the back area into a large, unencumbered space ideal for hobbies, messy activities, scooters etc.