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Solabode News

The ‘SOLABODE’ is a low-cost family housing solution built with natural and recycled materials and heated with free energy from the sun. It provides safe and comfortable shelter while addressing current economic and environmental concerns.

SOLABODE NEWS 013 - 16/05/16- Solabode Homes Update

It has been some time since development of more Solabode houses in New Zealand but this year has seen resurgence in the work after renewed interest in affordable eco home solutions.

In the last few months I have had several new clients seeking design variations of the Solabode Mk2 Modular designs that utilise a 1.2m internal design grid to minimise waste and cutting time. Client’s from North Canterbury, Marlborough and Cambridge have had me adapt this system to meet their needs and these designs will be featured in time on my website with some being available as downloadable plans.

The Solabode Mk1 plan has also seen new interest with a revamp of the Starter Home design now planned for several sections in a new green field’s subdivision near Hastings. This new and improved version, named the Solabode S.H. v1.2 has expanded living spaces, simpler and cheaper structure and improved features. The 3BR design is still around the 150m2 including a generous single garage and the house and land package price will be around the $300k mark. This is for a warm and spacious healthy home needing virtually no heating on a generous flat site; not bad! Plans for download will also be available soon.

I believe these Solabode home designs to perfectly meet the needs of many New Zealand young families, in both affordability, and in safe, healthy and comfortable living with very low purchased energy loads. The designs have several roof and floor plan configurations and maintain modern residential architectural trends without looking the ‘same’ as other company offerings. My aim is to promote this housing type as much as possible, as I believe it is the work I resonate to the most.

SOLABODE NEWS 012 - 07/04/10 - Solabode #001 Update

Solabode #001 house complete (but still to be fully furnished). My visit and overnight stay that weekend found the Solabode performing very well indeed although the weather is still very mild. The interior temperature upon arrival at 5:30pm was 32.2 degrees after being unattended for a week or so. Opening fanlight windows and the back door allowed the excess warm air to dissapate and regulate temperatures to a comfortable warm 25 degrees with outside temperatures dropping as evening approached.

Fanlight windows were closed at 10:30pm with indoor temps still at 25 degrees and the exposed concrete floor still radiating heat under foot. Next morning was cloudy and by 10:30 am internal temperatures had dropped to 23.5 degrees while outside was a cool 12 degrees or less - with no heater and no curtains yet fitted.

Autumn is a difficult time of year to control over heating with low angle sunshine and warm temperatures, even so the cool nights still make you glad of the warmth and comfort of passive solar heating, not to mention the zero heating bill. I am looking forward to the true test in three months time at the end of June when the performance is most critical.

SOLABODE NEWS 011 - 23/02/10 - Solabode Update

This experimental concept home was designed to stay comfortable without a heater for 3 to 4 days of cloudy weather in winter after a sunny day or two, the large areas of thermal mass balanced by large areas of north glazing certainly achieved this although at additional cost that would best be avoided. As a simple 'Direct Gain' passive design, it was understood that on sunny winter days the internal air would overheat which is why the high fanlight windows were included to provide controlled ventilation to maintain comfort.

The use of the patio doors for ventilation introduces a cooling loop of air which depletes the thermal mass of too much heat rendering a potential negative effect, so careful control of the house' ventilation was essential for optimum performance. However the reality is we like our patio doors open on sunny days in winter and so a design adjustment was needed to accommodate normal human behavior and provide an 'no brainer' solution. The result was a redesign to reduce performance to just one night and cloudy day of comfort without a heater after a sunny day. This adjustment included reducing areas of Adobe to just 2 veneer feature walls in the main Living area, while maintaining exposed concrete slab floors throughout the home - and reducing areas of north glazing to compensate. Both measures immediately reduced costs. If occupants did allow too much ventilation during a sunny day then at least there would not be too much mass to top up with heat before comfort was regained.

Another measure to redistribute warm air from a backup heater was to install louvers above internal doors at the higher ceiling areas. Yet another measure was a redesign of the floor plan to move some bedrooms and bathrooms to the rear of the solar heated spaces so that excess hot air could be transferred to those rooms without wasting free energy. This resulted in more conventional designed homes that also fit a wider range of section shapes.

My clients report total costs less than $200,000 provided input from owners is contributed like painting and some labouring for the builder. The revised design should reduce that cost further due to the lesser amount of thermal mass and glazing or maintain a similar cost with a full contract build.

All the following information is still relevant but the design is now more appropriate to a wider range of typical influences. Achieving comfort upon rising on a frosty morning without use of a heater is a success in my view and better than most houses in NZ, old or new!

SOLABODE NEWS 010 - 16/10/09 - Solabode Starter Home takes out National ADNZ/Resene Special Projects Award at the ADNZ National Conference at Wairaki near Taupo.

The results for the ADNZ/Resene 2009 National Design Awards are now out and we are very pleased to announce that the Solabode Starter Home has won the Special Projects Award. The Walker Shapiro Adobe House and the Ball House entries also took out finalist awards in the Sustainable Design Award catagory.

SOLABODE NEWS 009 - 27/07/09 - Solabode Starter Home is an Award-winner!

The results for the ADNZ/Resene 2009 Nelson/Marlborough Regional Design Awards are now out and we are thrilled to announce that the Solabode Starter Home has won the Special Projects Award. The Solabode Starter Home entry was also a finalist in the Sustainable Design Award for the Ball house.

SOLABODE NEWS 008 - 20/01/09

We have just heard today that the Tasman District Council (TDC) have approved a new Alternative Solution submitted by Ecotect Ltd with two new house building consent applications. Several more applications in the pipeline will now also benefit from this solution.
The Alternative Solution was to allow the use of standard H1.2 Boron treatment of Douglas fir rafters in low pitch skillion roofs and cavity battens, both situations that usually require H3.1 or higher treatment which is always provided with toxic chemical treatment (except for 3 cases that we got through with H3.1 Boron before it was recinded).
The Solabode houses require this same Alternative Solution for roof framing and possibly for cavity battens on exposed sites also so this is great news.
Ecotect has been working closely with Waimea Sawmillers, members of the Douglas Fir Association of NZ, who have been pivotal in provided the valuable scientific evidence (from Scion - formally Forest Reserch) required to show that Douglas Fir treated with low levels of non toxic boron salts is more than adequate at resisting decay in all enclosed framing situations. Waimea Sawmillers have also lobbied TDC staff on our behalf to help ease the way and we thank them.
This is the first time in the whole country that a such a low tech solution has been approved since these higher (knee jerk) toxic timber treatments were introduced with the amendment to NZS 3602 (Timber and wood based products used in buildings) in 2003. It is fantastic news for those wanting toxin free timber in their buildings and we are very pleased to be at the forefront of this drive for the use of more eco friendly materials in housing.
On other news, both of the two Solabodes under construction now have their exposed coloured concrete slabs poured and curing waiting for timber frames to be erected. Closing in will follow soon after so it won't be long before these first two are taking shape. We are hoping that in this economic decline, more people will choose to build affordable eco homes than regular homes. Watch the Leader for an upcoming advertising campaign for the Solabode.

SOLABODE NEWS 007 - 13/12/08

The second Solabode building consent is almost through the consents process at the TDC. This one is a modified floor plan and will be constructed at Old Coach Road in Mahana near the intersection with Harley Road. The great news is that the TDC have approved the H3.1 boron Douglas Fir treatment alternative Solution for this one because it was already lodged for consent when they changed their mind. Construction may be starting even before Christmas.

SOLABODE NEWS 006 - 13/12/08

This news is new and affects all Ecotect projects as well as all future Solabode's. This week the Tasman District Council rescinded its decision to grant our alternative solution to use H3.1 Boric treated Douglas fir produced by Moutere Timber Ltd. unless it is coated with a breathable protective grey paint coating. The TDC must protect its exposure to risk I suppose but we and our industry partners believe this is an extreme overkill and not even in accordance with the timber treatment standard. However this just means we have to work harder to allay all fears and doubt the TDC have in regard to this excellent solution. To that end I have been working with Waimea Sawmillers and the Wood Processors Association of NZ who have procured three recent independent scientific studies that all recommend that even the lower level of H1.2 boron treatment is more than enough to protect Douglas fir framing timber during transit, exposure on site and in finished use. Waimea Sawmillers are visiting with the Dept. of Building and Housing next week to apply for a determination for the Douglas Fir Association's extended alternative solution to limit Douglas fir treatment to H1.2 levels in all framing situations.

Those scientific reports are being made available to me to help with my H3.1 alternative solution and I am confident that we will be able to continue with that until the lower levels of treatment are approved.

SOLABODE NEWS 005 - 13/12/08

This news is a bit out of date now but very significant all the same. The first Solabode received a building consent around the beginning of November after the alternative solution was finally approved for use of H3.1 Boron treated Douglas Fir rafters instead of toxic treated wood. The site was cleared this last week and the timber piles have been driven (on this very soft site in Arapeta Place, Takaka) ready for the Polyraft concrete floor slab system to be constructed. This should be complete and ready for concrete pouring next Thursday the 18th December. I will be doing a site check to make sure all the perimeter insulation is correctly installed before concrete is poured.

A Solabode site sign will be erected some time in January 2009 as the wall framing goes up. Visitors interest is welcome but please arrange with the site foreman before entering the construction site.

SOLABODE NEWS 004 - 8/9/08

To date we have the first Solabode almost through the consents process ready to start building in a few weeks. Three more parties have engaged Ecotect Ltd to provide architectural drawings and site inspections for a Solabode, one 3 bedroom and two 2 bedroom models, with tentative interest from several other parties.

On Saturday, a collegue met with Maryan Street, Minister for Housing in Nelson to discuss the possibility of government funding to build a Solabode display home in central Nelson. Maryan was "very, very keen on the Solabode idea and supportive of the project". It turns out that the Housing Innovation Fund that this would qualify for is all allocated for this financial year, but she is going to look into other methods for funding for a quicker solution. Maryan took the DVD promotion movie and brochures back with her to Wellington to show some of her housing officials

SOLABODE NEWS 003 - 3/9/08

This week Ecotect Ltd have put in place an agreement of intent to be working with an award winning Nelson Master Builder with a clean track record and a keen interest in eco houses and the Solabode project.

This building company will be offering a project managed Solabode build package (to Nelson or Richmond clients only at this stage) to take the hassle out of the building process. Their work will still be subject to Ecotect quality control inspections in accordance with the ' authentication program '  to ensure all genuine Solabodes are certified as such.

A typical build cost may be a little higher than if you employ your own builder on say a labour only basis, but this is to cover the extra cost of project management and will provide you with a headache-free building experience.

Ecotect Ltd is also working with this company towards building and occupying a demonstration 3 bedroom Solabode show home in central Nelson City. this project is considered by both our companies to be of the utmost urgency and we are working towards having it completed before next winter.

SOLABODE NEWS 002 - 2/9/08

As part of our on going development of the Solabode concept, Ecotect staff are continually searching for better materials and solutions to improve its adaptability of use, sustainability quotient and of course its health and thermal performance. We are currently evaluating offering an alternative to the Onduline cladding with a old product using new technology. Radiata pine as weatherboard would be a very sustainable, eco friendly and cost effective local cladding product if a suitable non toxic preservative treatment could be used with it.
That product is now available (as it once was in the 1960's) as Boron treatment to the H3.1 level which is needed for exterior durability. Some timber profiles are already available from local merchants. Ecotect is in contact with the company with the aim to have them produce a vertical weatherboard profile using this preservative treatment. The vertical profile will closely resemble the vertical corrugations of the Onduline, but more stain or paint colours would be available than Onduline's six colour choices. Onduline would still be offered as a less expensive cladding choice as it still stacks up brilliantly as a sustainable material when comparing all aspect with other materials.
Finally today, Ecotect staff are working on several variations to the Solabode floor plan so that models are available for site shapes and sizes that would not otherwise accommodate the standard Solabode shape which needs a fairly long site with a North aspect on the long side. A double pavillion model is under development for narrow north aspects and a two storey option is also on the drawing board for very small sites. All designs will be carefully designed and calculated to work with the same efficiency as the standard 2 or 3 bedroom Solabode

SOLABODE NEWS 001 - 1/9/08

This general newsletter goes out to all those who left their contacts so as to save me time replying to you all individually. I have been very busy of late so thanks for your patience waiting for me to make contact. I welcome any personal enquirey so please don't hesitate to contact me to discuss anything to do with the Solabode or a custom designed eco home.
I would be happy to inspect any potential building site for suitability of building a Solabode or custom plan. Costs for this time and milage would be rebated against total design fees if engaging my company to provide architectural services.
Since the EcoFest we have made some policy changes to make it easier for us and our clients to get a Solabode built. Instead of a design and build package, which looked like being too difficult to manage at this stage, we are now proposing instead to impliment an Authentication process to ensure that all genuine Solabode's are built correctly ensuring they perform as designed. Clients may then employ their own choice of builder or Ecotect may recommend a builder.
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