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Solarei Passive Solar House (New Zealand)

Credits: ©2013 Duncan Firth

Te Kauwhata House in Waikato, New Zealand, is a three-bedroom, passive solar, energy efficient family home that utilizes green architecture principles on a medium scale budget. It is passively self-heated during winter, self-cooled over summer and employs green materials throughout. Designed by Solarei - in association with Powered Living (New Zealand) Limited - the home is oriented due north to maximize solar gain and take full advantage of the low angled winter sun which passively heats its internal concrete slab floors and walls. The annual energy use is around 3200kWh’s, with power provided by a 3.2 kW grid connected solar panel system. Internal temperatures peak at 24⁰ during later afternoon mid-winter. The house collects rainwater for drinking and reduces water consumption through water efficient fixtures. Materials include untreated Lawson Cyprus timber for exterior cladding, untreated macrocarpa timber for interior shelves and architraves (beams), natural bio-paints for the interior finishes, and wool/polyester composite insulation. The home is 2,500 sq. ft. (240 sqm), situated on a 16,000 sq. ft. (1500sqm) or one-third acre property.


Solarei Passive House (New Zealand)

Te Kauwhata House in Waikato, New Zealand, is a three bedroom, passive solar, energy efficient family home that is passively self-heated during winter, self-cooled over summer and employs green materials throughout. ©2013 Solarei Architecture

Principle architect Duncan Firth says Solarei’s design principles incorporate what is already provided to us by nature: abundant, free radiant energy from the sun and natural airflow. Correctly designing for sunlight and airflow reduces dependency on mechanical devices for heating and cooling, or can eliminate the need for these altogether, he says.

For Te Kauwhata House, Solarei designed thermal massing in the floors; the concrete floors act like re-chargeable batteries that use sunlight instead of electricity for heating. During the day, sunlight is beamed onto the floor; this energy is then absorbed by the concrete. When external temperatures begin to cool during the evening, heat is then released (or conducted) from the slab. Concrete slabs are able to retain and release energy for several days when cloudy conditions persist.

Solarei also focuses on passive water heating; water heating is typically responsible for 27 percent of total annual power consumption in conventional residences. A house that uses passive solar and passive cooling principles, along with a passive water heating system, can realize a 40 percent reduction in the annual energy usage compared to conventional houses.

Materials for Te Kauwhata House were selected using ‘Cradle To Cradle’ concepts. Cradle to Cradle http://www.c2ccertified.org/ is a framework for assessing and constantly improving products, based on five categories –renewable energy, clean water, material health, social responsibility and material reutilization. Questions Firth asks about materials include “What is the material? Where does the material come from? How is the material made? Where does the material go once we have finished with it? What is the material’s second life-cycle? “


  Solarei New Directions in Passive Solar Article 2013 (389 kb)

  Passive Solar Design Guidance New Zealand 2008 (930 kb)

  Passive Solar Design for New Zealand Homes (335 kb)


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