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Kiwi home design and build company goes carbon neutral

Kiwi home design and build company goes carbon neutral

Kiwi company ebode is all about building architecturally designed passive solar sustainable homes. And now its has upped its eco credentials a little more by becoming the first carbon neutral-certified home design and build company in New Zealand, achieving carboNZeroCert certification. 

Achieving the certification required ebode to measure its greenhouse gas emissions and put in place plans to reduce them. Any unavoidable emissions are offset through the purchase of verified carbon credits. 

To provide further assurance, the certification required ebode to have an independent audit prior to achieving certification. This examined ebode’s power use, waste to landfill and other resource consumption, including the fuel use and air travel of its designers and sales team as they visit clients and market ebode homes around the country. 

For a company that’s centred around sustainable building principles, gaining carbon zero certification seemed like a natural step, according to the company’s founder and co-director Niel de Jong.

“We try to live sustainably in our lives away from the business as well, so from the outset we put in place workplace policies which put environmental responsibility at the core of our operation,” he says.
 
“The hardest emissions to reduce are those from our journeys to visit clients in places such as Gisborne and Kaikoura, but we are working on ways to reduce that using technology.” 

This includes web-based portals for design clients to view their ‘virtual homes’ from anywhere in the world; Skype conferencing with clients, staff, suppliers and building contractors; and an online Project management system to manage multiple projects from a distance without a lot of air travel. 

The company’s head office in Mt Albert is heated most of the year with passive solar design, and also uses passive ventilation in the summer. The office runs on solar power and hot water, collects its own rainwater, and composts and recycles as much office waste as possible. ebode’s sales agents drive hybrid electric cars, and the company uses a carboNZero certified courier. 

And while the carboNZeroCert applies solely to ebode’s operations, in building its homes, the company says it uses New Zealand-sourced materials where possible, places a priority on materials that can be upcycled and/or recycled and it also sends out a material procurement document that all suppliers must sign to gage their level of sustainability.

de Jong says some suppliers are "befuddled" when they’re asked to complete the procurement document, but the company works with them to measure and evaluate their environmental impact.

“We have someone on staff fulltime vetting our suppliers,” says de Jong.

And don't expect to find any bins on site. When in the construction phase, there are no skips or bins to be found, only a series of recycling stations. While it wasn’t always easy, de Jong says that most of the people the company work with now understand and actively engage with the recycling on site.

A lot of material is locally managed, with de Jong estimating that anywhere between 90 and 95 percent of materials are locally sourced or manufactured. The parts that aren't sourced locally tend to be focused on house fittings, like door and window hardware, which de Jong says is mostly sourced from Germany.

“We tend to avoid products manufactured in Aisa because over there it’s hard to track down where products were sourced," he says 

Prior to forming the edobe in 2007,  Niel and Jette de Jong had dabbled in sustainable housing as directors of Heritage Design Group. Niel has a particular interest in indigenous New Zealand architecture, and helped set up the Maori design studio at Unitec.