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When proud home-owners show visitors their renovations, they usually tend to point out smooth, minimalist surfaces, stylish kitchen and bathroom fittings and fancy furniture.
When you tour Simon and Kristina Cope’s house additions you are likely to find yourself climbing a steep ladder into the attic to admire the giant hot water cylinder and thick insulation.
The Copes’ ex-state house could be seen as an enthusiast’s dream of gadgets and wires, over-capitalised with expensive rooftop solar electric modules.
But marketing strategist Simon views their investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy as a giant billboard for his and Kristina’s separate home-based businesses. He also believes it’s the right thing to do for its own sake.
The $30,000 they have spent on energy efficiency and renewable energy could be said to have been recouped in one appearance on TV’s Holmes in an item about selling power back to the electricity retailer.
Simon had more than 500 emails about it the following day, and increased traffic on his website.
The Cope’s run tours through the house, and the energy features are tax-deductible because they’re an essential element of their business marketing.
They also see the house as laying down the foundations for a low-maintenance retirement with minimal outgoings.
Low energy bills are not the only consideration. The Copes have also provided for extensive water collection, with oversized guttering to collect their share of Auckland’s heavy rain.
In 2009, they’ll set up the rainwater collection system that will reticulate water for four showers, four toilets, washing machine, dishwasher and a spabath.
Simon says they have already retired from their first careers and plan to “retire” again in 10 years’ time.
Simon has a background in electronics engineering, renewable energy, and Kristina is an architect with earth-building expertise. Since having daughters Zoe (4) and Isabella (6), she’s changed career – apart from designing their house – and has set up an export gift business based on New Zealand products marketed through her website: ProductsFromNewZealand.com
The house’s location near a proposed motorway alongside the railway line presents a challenge that is less within their power to control, but Simon is optimistic that public opinion can deflect the road-building juggernaut. “I can either see it as a thick grey cloud continually over my head or a wispy white cloud I can blow away,” he says. “Surely Aucklander’s understand that more motorways are not going to solve our road congestion problems; however, a rail system that links the airport to the Northshore and out to every shopping mall, is actually cheaper and has more vision for Auckland’s future?” he mutters.
And if they have to move, they can take their sustainable energy systems with them.
The house is in a tract of state housing in a broad north-facing gully, above the Purewa Creek that separates Meadowbank and Orakei in Auckland’s eastern suburbs. At the bottom of the street is Meadowbank railway station, on the southern railway that traces the creek’s course into Orakei Basin and Hobson Bay. Following the sweep of the waterway and railway line, the eye is drawn to the cityscape dominated by the Sky Tower.
The outlook across to green Kepa Bush Park on the other side of the gully is rural, a peaceful haven for birds.
The first stage of the development is completed, with a floor area of 310 square metres comprising a two-storeyed addition to an ex-state house. The next stage, to be completed by Christmas 2009, will add 200 square metres of garaging and office space
State house supports self-sufficiency
Visionaries or pragmatists? Simon and Kristina Cope have invested heavily in smart energy strategies for their Auckland home, but they expect it to pay its way.
Article by Cathy Sheenan - Editor for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA - NZ Govt Dept)
Published in EnergyWiseNews Magazine Oct 2004 & updated in June 2009
Solar Energy House C/- Simon & Kristina Cope | 19 Manapau Street, Meadowbank, Auckland 1072 | New Zealand | Contact us now to arrange your tour
Happily sited on a northern slope with no obstructions, the house has been extended with a wide northern face and shallow plan to maximise the sun’s access to living areas and bedrooms. Bathrooms and other service areas are at the rear.
The original matai floor was retained, and being lightweight, is not designed for passive solar energy collection, but insulation keeps the heat inside in winter and outside in summer.
The wide roof (manufactured from recycled paper and bitumen by Onduline) has plenty of area for solar water heating and photovoltaic modules and is angled to make the most of the solar energy.
When they found out the cost of double-glazing the large expanses of bifold doors and windows, Simon and Kristina decided the money would be better spent on installing extra insulation and sizing up the heating system to cope with colder periods
Anatomy of an energywise home
While building the extension, the Copes made the most of the opportunity to install plenty of insulation. They have two layers of high-density Autex Greenstuf polyester blankets in the roofspace and have insulated the external and internal walls, and the floor between the first and second levels to the maximum amount that would physically fit in these spaces.
They’ve insulated under the ground-level floor with Greenstuf and foil, and have covered the ground beneath the house with black polythene sheets to prevent damp rising.
“The extra cost was stuff-all,” says Simon, and the girls loved burrowing into the fluffy insulation blankets.
Making a stand
So why not live in a smaller house that consumes less material and embodied energy in its construction? Simon sees the generous amenities as a reward for his and Kristina’s hard work, a haven for guests and a way to close off the office areas from the living areas so work doesn’t dominate family life. “When we first came here we set up our office in the living room and the kids were crawling over everything, and we worked 24x7 on the business because we could not separate work and private time,” he says.
And apart from the pragmatic value of marketing and low energy bills, why go to all that trouble, when you could spend the money on designer furniture or a family trip overseas?
Simon says they’ve gone the eco-friendly route because somebody has to. “Someone has to make a stand, and we’re in the fortunate position we can afford to do it. I want to keep pushing the boundaries and make others aware of what’s possible.”
At around $9,000 the home’s energy efficiency features are cost-effective, especially in the long term. These features will pay for themselves within 6-7 years.
This house is over twice the size as the previous, yet only uses an average of three units a day – all achieved through cost effective energy efficient appliances and materials. (A typical house of this size in Auckland would use over 30+ units a day.) “The solar photovoltaic electricity is the icing on the cake”, says Cope. They are not necessary to have on a house to achieve a sub $30 dollar electricity bill every month. This makes the Cope’s ideas worth considering for ALL homes as $9000 invested upfront during construction is laughable when you spend $250,000+ to build a house from scratch in the first place.
The solar photovoltaic (PV) modules are an additional capital expense, and will take a long time to pay for themselves, but that’s not the only consideration.
In New York, solar PV modules are a new form of chic. The payback period might be decades, but trend-setting New Yorkers who’ve installed the modules gain social prestige and see it as a way of making a statement about independence from foreign oil supply, insurance against rising electricity prices and avoiding using electricity that comes from nuclear or coal-fired power stations.
Could the Cope’s be spearheading that trend in sunnier New Zealand?
Water and space heating
Instead of installing the heating and water heating in a piecemeal way, the Copes have....
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