First Light house floats in the middle of the ocean

Somewhere out there, making it’s way slowly but surely, are bits and pieces of a house that, when reassembled in the US, could earn its creators some pretty prestigious notoriety. In their latest blog, the First Light team detail the process involved in getting all the pieces of their house safely across to the US to participate in the US Department of Energy’s 2011 Solar Decathlon competition—not the easiest of feats when the NZ  Building Code compliant house also has to meet US Building codes standards, just to gain entry into the US.

The shipping of the Meridian First Light house has always seemed like a distant idea to the team. We knew it had to happen and designed the house accordingly, but still, the idea of the house  packed up on a boat and making its way across the pacific has always been hard to imagine. Now that moment has finally arrived.

On Friday 17 June the last of the containers, containing wrapped up components of the Meridian First Light house, left Frank Kitts Park in Wellington. It was transported up to Tauranga by Mainfreight to join the rest of the house before being loaded onto the ship to depart New Zealand. While the team will have a relatively direct flight to the US, the house on the other hand will get to visit a few interesting spots on its way to Washington, taking over a month to complete its journey.

The house left Tauranga yesterday (30June), stopping off briefly in Auckland before heading out into the Pacific. A container carrier called the ‘Bahia’ will be loaded up with a whole lot of shipping containers including the Meridian First Light house in Hamburg Süd containers and flat racks.

The ship will take over two weeks to cross the Pacific Ocean—here’s hoping for calm weather as it passes through the tropics! It will reach land in Manzanillo, Mexico’s busiest port, before making its way through the Panama canal. Once through the canal the boat will stop off in Cartagena, Colombia before the house reaches its final waterborne destination in Philadelphia on 26July.

Once the containers and flat racks holding the Meridian First Light house have been unloaded from the ship, they’ll need to go through customs (fingers crossed we have cleaned everything to their liking) and get loaded onto trucks to make the final leg of the journey to Washington DC. 

Along with the logistics of getting the house packed up and into a transportable state, there were a number of decisions made around the materials used in the house to make sure the house could make it through customs and back again.

The treatments used on materials in the US have different restrictions and needs to those in New Zealand. Here in NZ it is standard to use CCA treatment which gives timber an extended life and protects against fungi and insects, but in the US the use of this is restricted and cannot be used in domestic buildings. The team discussed a number of alternative treatments which would fulfil the building codes here and in the US. A variety of treatments were used including ACQ, Boron and Copper Azole.  Where possible we chose materials where treatment was not needed—for example our cladding made from Herman Pacific Western Red Cedar did not need treatment to be used here or in the US. 

As well as the treatments the containers needed to go through fumigation before leaving Tauranga and will go through a similar process on the way back. We will be bringing the house back the way it left and certainly would not want to bring back anything with us that we didn’t take in the first place!

Over the past year, the First Light team has provided us with a thorough insight into their journey to the US to compete in the US Department of Energy’s 2011 Solar Decathlon competition. Check out the team’s other entries below:

When everything falls apart, you put it back together

Visitors swarm through First Light house as team gears up for US journey

Speed is of the essence as First Light house makes its Wellington debut

Construction ‘n’ Technology

Walls, floors, roofs and insulation: Solar bach build kicks off

We want woolly walls

A journey of miniature proportions

Take a 3D tour through First Light’s solar bach

Getting excited about solar design

Practice makes perfect

New Zealand natives in Washington DC

An actively passive house

What’s in a name? 

A team explosion (of size)

Showcasing Kiwi lifestyle to the world

How do you ship a house from Wellington to Washington?

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).