Tim Bishop believes that sustainable building should not just be about using sustainable or recycled resources – it should also make us happier.
“It’s about creating the home we want without accumulating a lot of debt,” says Tim, the National Coordinator for SHAC (Sustainable Habitat Challenge). “A sustainable house will be high quality, keep you warm and preferably be solar powered. It won’t be large but will be plenty for what you need.”
So what are the benefits of living this way? In the past, New Zealanders lived in smaller homes; ones that had a gentle impact on the environment and didn’t drain resources. These houses were also relatively cheap to build. “There’s nothing wrong with a big house,” Tim explains. “It’s just that building a 250m² house costs a lot of money. Sustainable building is about helping people spend time doing what they enjoy rather than paying off a huge mortgage. A high-quality, more affordable house might fit the bill.”
According to Tim, although a lot of discussion about sustainability tends to be about technology or materials, it’s really about providing people with a good life. A sustainable home should last. “New Zealand legislation states that homes need to last fifty years, but buildings should last much longer than that – especially considering how much money we put into them.” The best buildings are flexible; they could be an office in one generation and a family home in another. “Sustainable building should be comfortable to live in now, and can also be adaptable for the future.”
Part of SHAC’s research is looking into different ways of building – particularly the ‘working bee’ concept. This process involves a large group of people coming together for a building project. “Instead of just having a couple of people working on a house-build for months, you can get a big group working for a short amount of time,” Tim explains. “It wasn’t that long ago in New Zealand when many families and communities would come together to help build what they needed. Let's do more of that.”
Tim believes the ‘working bee’ concept feeds into the idea that living sustainably is about living well and with purpose, while acknowledging those in your community, friends and extended family. “It’s about providing people with options. Sustainable housing supports living well, with less reliance on resources, while giving you time to discover your purpose and do what you enjoy.”