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Timber and grey outdoor setting on a patio surrounded by greenery.
Set up a home that evolves as your family grows and your lifestyle changes.

Why should you future proof your home?

Building from scratch or renovating entails many decisions that relate to your immediate needs, but it pays to consider the years ahead, too. Futureproofing your home up front can improve its performance now and reduce the likelihood of costly renovations later. Here are seven ways to ensure your home adapts and endures as time goes on.

1. Sustainable design

Optimising your orientation is key to creating a low-energy warm home, says architect Sian Taylor, a specialist in energy-efficient and passive house design (teamgreenarchitects.co.nz). Positioning your house so it’s north-facing is ideal. It can maximise solar gain in the colder months and avoid overheating in the summer. “West- and east-facing windows could let in too much heat as the sun is much lower in the sky. To avoid overheating, external blinds or shutters should be used,” says Sian. To understand the effects of your site and design, Sian recommends getting the building energy modelled, as it can be an invaluable tool. “This can help to determine the type of windows you need and wall thicknesses required to ensure you have enough insulation,” she says. If renovating, it’s important to create a comfortable environment in every area of the house. “Tackle spaces that are cold first by putting in heat pumps, which are energy efficient,” says Sian. “Then see whether you can improve the standard of insulation in that space, and next see if you can add windows to bring in more sun, or if you can improve the quality of the existing windows.”

A diagram of a house, pointing out sustainable design features.

2. Insulate & ventilate

For a new house, it’s ideal to have a continuous thermal blanket around the exterior. This means avoiding any uninsulated cold bridges, also known as thermal bridges. These occur in areas where building components join, such as slab edges, window and door frames and areas of a building that have materials of higher conductivity, such as aluminium-framed windows. “If left exposed, a huge amount of heat can leak from the building,” says Sian. “These cold bridges also lead to areas on the inside where damp and mould will grow over time. If you keep adding more and more insulation to new houses, you don’t get the same return for what you spend on it. It’s better to spend your money making the building airtight.” A heat-recovery ventilation system – which ventilates while retaining heat – coupled with an airtight home, can lead to a low-energy warm place, adds Sian. It’s recommended to add more insulation to existing houses where you can. “Start with easier areas, such as in the roof space or under raised floors. After this, I would block draughts and look at better windows to make your building more efficient,” suggests Sian.

An indoor dining table sits under an abstract light fixture in a room with white walls.

3. Sun-loving solar

Introducing a photovoltaic system to capture free electricity from your roof works even better when incorporated with low-energy technology, such as hot-water heat pumps that have 4:1 efficiency¹ . “This means that for every kilowatt you pay, you’ll get four kilowatts of energy out of it,” says Sian. “This further reduces your power bill, while being good for the planet.”

4. Be water wise

Choose water-saving fittings and appliances, and consider installing rainwater tanks to help conserve water. Make sure wet areas can be easily adapted to accommodate future design and technology changes.

5. Light choices

Good lighting makes a home more pleasant to be in. Correct orientation on the site can deliver light and sunshine in winter, while eaves, awnings and deciduous plants can provide shade and block summer heat. Research efficient interior lighting for your home. For example, pendants and lamps create a cosy setting in rooms for relaxing, while task lighting, such as downlights, is required in areas like the kitchen.

6. Smarten up

Smart technology (appliances and electronics connected to the internet) allows you to control things remotely and automatically. Even if you don’t need it now, having the right infrastructure – ethernet cables and electrics – in place will futureproof the house for when you or someone else wants it. Lighting, shade, curtains and blinds, heating and cooling, ventilation and security systems can all be operated via smart technology.

7. Lifetime homes

Living comfortably at home until a ripe old age is made more achievable by planning ahead. Design to support comfortable ageing should be included in new builds or renovations, says Geoff Penrose at Lifemark (lifemark.co.nz), a division of CCS Disability Action, which advises how to build homes for all life ages and stages. “Thinking of this now will put you in a better position as you adapt to your changes later on,” he says. Considerations include ensuring that at least one entrance is free of any steps and that flooring is slip-resistant. Wide corridors and internal doors allow for easy manoeuvrability and windows should provide a view to the outdoors when seated. A ground-floor toilet, step-free level-entry shower and reinforced walls around the toilet, shower and bath to support the safe installation of grab rails are key. Kitchen and laundry areas should have ample space, with under-bench drawers. Put light switches and power points in easy-to-reach places.

Simple Steps

Here are some steps you can take now to help future proof your home

  • Install an energy-monitoring system and discover which appliances are power gobblers.
  • Swap out gas appliances for energy-efficient electric models.
  • Switch to LED bulbs, which use up to 85 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent or halogen bulbs but produce the same amount of light².
  • Double glaze and seal older windows, and add shade covers.
  • Invest in storage. A wall of ‘clever cubes’ in a kid’s room can later move to the home office or living room. Even better, buy furniture that has in-built storage.
  • Replace flooring to ensure it is level and hard-wearing.
  • Lay non-slip tiles in bathrooms and install open-access showers.
  • Use water-saving shower heads and flow restrictors.
  • New wardrobe? Add lighting and pull-out drawers, which are easier to access than shelving.
  • Wire bedside lights to the wall – it makes them easier to reach and use in your twilight years.

¹technologyreview. com/2023/02/14/1068582/everything-you-need-to-know-about-heat-pumps

²genless.govt.nz/for-everyone/ at-home/use-led-lighting

Any hardwired electrical work must be carried out by a licensed tradie.

Work smarter, not harder

Set up your home for the future by exploring the range of smart home technology.

 

Photo Credit: Louise Roche, Brigid Arnott. Illustration: Stephen Pollitt.

Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.