Interview with Adele Eyers: NZ’s first female Certified Passive House Tradesperson

Adele Eyers, originally from South Africa, has her own construction project management consultancy and in the last three months has been concentrating on the other side of the coin – an apprenticeship in building.  PHINZ would like to roundly congratulate Adele on being the first female to become a Certified Passive House Tradesperson in Aotearoa NZ, having recently passed the CET course.  We caught up with Adele to chat about her experience.

What motivated you to become involved in construction and in Passive House?

I’m a construction project manager and have my own consultancy company, and I hit a moment in life where I wanted to jump to the other side and pick up the tools.  I also have a brother and sister-in-law who are very passionate about Passive House, so it ended up being the natural route to go.  Once you go through all the literature for studying building you realise it’s best to start at the Passive House end, finding out the right way to build, and then layering the Building Code onto that, it becomes impossible not to want to build better.

What are your thoughts on the broader state of construction in Aotearoa?

Just speaking for the bigger construction companies that I’ve worked for in the last couple of years, you can see they are wanting to do the right thing and learn new ways, which shows a definite upward trend in the right direction.

For the younger apprentices getting into the industry, the earlier in their careers that they can get into Passive House and the science behind it, the better – because they’ll drive the new generation.

How did you get on with the PH Tradesperson course?

It was quite challenging mentally – refreshing to be that challenging though! It wasn’t a given that you were going to pass – you had to understand it and do the calcs in real life scenarios or you wouldn’t pass.  It was a good combination of practical and theory.  It was very mathematical, which I like, and it got the brain working.  I can see that it will be good knowing the building science behind it and how the calculations work to help moving forward.

What’s it been like being a strong female in the NZ construction industry?

Generally I feel supported. The attitude to females working in the construction industry in NZ is certainly better than in South Africa.  I currently work with a great team who value my input especially on the Passive House detailing since completing the course. There are lots more females in the trade (sparkies, plumbers) now.  But I don’t deny there is still old school thinking regarding females for a small number of the older generation in the industry.  The younger generation though is much more about equality. It’ll take time, but it’s getting there. And for my part, it’s a mindset to get through your apprenticeship but I definitely make sure people don’t walk over me.

What would you say to other wahine thinking about getting in to the industry?

Just do it!  If you have a hint of wanting to get into the industry and your doubting it, don’t over think it. Just do it. The support will be there, one way or another you’ll find it.  

Any thoughts on where to from here for you?

I always thought I knew the answer: that I’d be expanding my project management consultancy in a particular direction, but now after doing the Passive House course I’m not so sure.  I’m going to concentrate on getting the building apprenticeship done as quickly as I can, and then it’s brewing in the background to expand into a more Passive House line.  Possibly an idea around building a supportive network for female tradies. It’s brewing!

What do you feel you got out of the Passive House course?

This course has taught me how important airtightness is in a house. Having built a beautiful home, designed by my sister in law Jessica Eyers from Hiberna 5 years ago, we then sold to move to Wanaka. Our current house, built in 2011, is the best we could afford at the time, and the quality of the build is terrible.  I would urge people to think long term – invest early on and do it as good as you can, because you’re only going to do it once. Some people build houses that incorporate “some” aspects of Passive House – you spend a lot of money in intello and tape and detailing, but you still have thermal bridges, so you don’t end up with a house that performs as you expected in your mind.  They go part way – I would recommend doing it right and going the full distance as you’ll be spending the extra in wasted energy costs on a part-way build over the next years anyway.

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