What is It?
Homestar was created as a holistic tool aimed at assessing a home’s environmental impact. Compared to homes simply built to code, Homestar rated homes are warmer, drier, healthier, and use less power and water. The New Zealand Green Building Counsel trains professionals like myself, a certified Homestar Practitioner, to educate homebuilders and owners about the program and design homes that meet the requirements. Let’s take a look at the five categories assessed as part of the Homestar certification process.
Efficiency is often synonymous with sustainability. The term is typically conceptualized with reductions in energy usage such as is seen with efficient appliances and such. With Homestar, efficiency has a broader meaning. It specifically provides rewards to smaller homes that bring with them smaller environmental footprints. In addition to using less energy and water, these types of dwellings improve their footprint by taking less resources to build and maintain. The efficient rating specifically assesses four areas: resource efficiency, urban density, water, use, and energy use.
Health & Comfort
Everyone wants a home that is comfortable and promotes health. Thus, it is no surprise that Homestar provides a strong emphasis on this in their certification process for rating homes. Two of the major areas assessed here are comfort in the winter and summer. Additionally, this category supports occupant health by looking at materials used in construction. The goal with this aspect is to incentivize the usage of materials that do not emit dangerous substances such as Volatile Organic Compounds. This category also assesses important aspects that are critical to a healthy environment such as effective ventilation, the integration of natural sunlight, moisture control, and good acoustics. Homes scoring high in this category provide an enjoyable living experience that promotes optimal wellness.
Of all the categories that go into a Homestar certification, this is perhaps the one that requires the most explanation. After all, aren’t all homes liveable? What is meant by liveable in this concept is homes that are safe, secure, and adaptable. This category looks at inclusive design, a home’s ability to easily adapt to changing needs of occupants. It also assesses the nearness of local amenities such as cafes, libraries, places of worship, and fitness centers. Eco-friendly living is another important aspect of the liveable rating, which assesses recycling, vegetable gardens, and safety. Finally, sustainable transport looks at areas such as nearly cycling facilities, public transportation, and electric vehicle charging.
Environmentally responsible homes are seen as those that have a lower environmental impact overall. This lies in line with what most people likely think about when they think about sustainable practices. Homestar homes that achieve high scores in this category will be built with responsibly-sourced materials to reduce carbon footprint. They will also exhibit low levels of construction waste and utilize contractors who integrate environmental management plans and have attained sustainable certification. Furthermore, environmentally responsible homes will be designed in a manner that improves their site’s ecological value while reducing pollution and erosion through management of storm water.
The final category is innovations. This is the easiest to explain as it solely looks at whether or not construction of a home integrates building practices that have been shown to reduce the environmental impact of the dwelling. Homes receiving points in this category may complete a published innovation challenge or leverage a design feature or technology that provides environmental benefits that exceed a current Homestar benchmark or are not included in the Homestar assessment.
There are a total of 140 possible points that can be earned for apartments and 138.5 for homes. Dwellings with a rating over 60 points become Homestar certified. Certifications range from 6 Homestar to 10 Homestar based on the number of points attained. Ultimately, earning a Homestar certification shows that a home is well-designed to provide comfort, safety, and sustainability.
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Modal Architecture is a local architectural design firm specialising in high performance, sustainable, and lifestyle homes around New Zealand. If you want to find out more - get in touch below to discuss this article or your upcoming project.