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State House to Passive House - Part 1

This is the first in a series on the retrofit of a 1940’s ex-state house. Through the next few months and maybe longer we will use this series to discuss what the options are when retrofitting existing buildings and houses. It will explain why and how we are doing it, with plenty of pictures of the work on site.

We will also include some history on these important examples of New Zealand’s architectural heritage and what makes them so suitable to retrofit.

It’s great to have new buildings built to a high standard. We need to be doing this, for our health and environment, in this climate crisis. But new buildings will always be a small percentage of our total building stock. Most of our buildings are already existing. We can’t just knock them down. There are too many and pulling them down to build new would cause the release of large amounts of carbon. The most sustainable building is the one you don’t build.

If we are going to meet our climate change targets, including net-zero carbon by 2050, then we must retrofit our buildings to be more energy efficient. This has the bonus of also making them healthier and more comfortable.

The importance of an urgent deeper retrofit to our buildings and how it is often overlooked was highlighted with the recent launch of, led by the New Zealand Building Council.

Retrofitting existing buildings is a challenge, but one that we need to take up. This series seeks to show a way to do this. To share our learnings, good and bad.

The project kicked off with a bang in September last year. Unfortunately, that bang was the junction box on the soffit where the overhead power cable from across the street came into the house. The fire, and putting out the fire, caused quite a bit of damage. This is then a case of building back better.

You can follow the project on Instagram with its own account -


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