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Affordable ideology

It took some learning, but Lockwood Homes has a new mantra

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It took some learning, but Lockwood Homes has a new mantra

Energy-efficient, eco-friendly homes are often the domain of the super-rich, who helicopter in for a guilt-free weekend at their luxury eco-lodges. The new locally-designed range of Lockwood homes, however, brings energy efficiency to the masses, and they won’t have to sell their helicopters to afford it.

The Ecosmart designs meet a demanding brief: they’re ultra-efficient, affordable, constructed with minimal energy use and ready for export to Australia, the Pacific Islands and India. But the technical aspects of designing the homes were easy, says Lockwood chief executive Bryce Heard—compared with shifting the mindset of the entire organisation, that is.

“For decades, our business has been driven by getting a good product, getting a good price, and making it easy to produce. With the Ecosmart house it’s ideology, ideology, ideology. Product, price and ease of construction, they’ve all slipped down the order. You’ve got to get the ideology right.

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“The temptation for us was to either try to cut prices, or make it easier to build. That was the mindset we had to change.”

The end product includes double-glazing, solar water heating complemented by a clean-burning wetback heater, grey water recycling, extra insulation, and solar photovoltaic cells with a two-way switchboard that can return electricity to the grid on a sunny day.

Priced from $200,000, an Ecosmart home is ten to 15 percent more expensive than Lockwood’s previous designs, says Heard, but uses only about two-thirds the energy over its life—nearer to half if you take the solar energy into account.

The Dave Strachan-designed Rotorua show home that opened in March is the result of a steep learning curve for the company. There was the engineer who replaced wood beams with steel, inadvertently “stuffing up the energy footprint embodied in the house,” says Heard (noticed, and rectified, when the builder started work). There was the budget-conscious staffer who sent out carefully-chosen recycled-paper invitations to the launch in cheaper but non-recycled envelopes. Then there was the plane booked to take a load of journalists and VIPs from Auckland to Rotorua for the afternoon (Idealog declined the invitation).

“We’ll get the purists,” says Heard, “and we’ll always be subject to criticism, but the fact is we’re earnest in our endeavours to do the best we can with the technology at our disposal. We’ve gone into it with goodwill and good intent, and we’re learning as we go.”

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