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Lower Saddle Passive House

274 Tahekeroa Road, Tahekeroa 0873, New Zealand
294 Tahekeroa Road Makarau Auckland 0873 NZ

Lower Saddle House settles into a north-west facing grassy saddle in the rural settlement of Tahekeroa, with expansive views across the Makarau River valley. The surrounding area consists of weathered rural infrastructure, traditional villas, and a growing number of new homes, all embedded into a mixture of pasture, pine wood and native bush. Taking precedence from its rural context, and the owners love of the simple robustness of back country huts, Lower Saddle sits comfortably into it’s surroundings like it was always there – belying the high-performance nature of the project. The exposed site is both baked by the sun and battered by rain and winds, so the proposal had to respond to a range of environmental factors to ensure durability, performance, and habitability. The response included careful orientation to both the view, the sun & the prevailing wind, positioning of openings, north & western overhangs and exterior shading.

Cost was the key constraint. As first-time buyers with a small deposit, prioritising and compromising were key approaches to make the project achievable. An ‘envelope first’ strategy was decided on, with an interior that could be gradually completed by the family, as a family, once in. Through this approach the project achieved a m2 rate of $2590/m2 + GST and was delivered only $2600 over budget. Initially a single storey home, it was designed to be extended into the roof space. To get funding in place however, the additional first floor accommodation had to be included in the project to achieve the as-complete value vs construction cost, while not increasing the build cost substantially – a challenging exercise and negotiation with the contractor!

The project was a result of an architect tired of watching his kids get ill and deciding to put his (minimal!) money where his mouth is, to prove that high performing, healthy homes can be achieved at standard budgets, while still being beautiful places to live. What resulted is an unpretentious, Passive House Certified home that blends into its rural context, while keeping its inhabitants warm, dry and healthy year-round. The project achieved excellent embodied and operation carbon results, and since the family has moved in has absolutely ‘performed as designed’ with energy bills of $100-$130/month while maintaining comfortable temperatures year-round with no active heating or cooling, and the children’s respiratory issues have disappeared.

To minimise thermal bridging and embodied carbon, steel and concrete were out! SIPs were chosen for their thermal and airtight qualities, with prefabrication reducing waste and construction time. Due to the sloping site a suspended timber floor with sheep’s wool insulation was chosen over a carbon-hungry concrete slab. Painted plywood cladding and metal roofing were selected externally, with a scoria red finish reminiscent of tramping huts and embodying the local rural vernacular. Internally the SIPs were painted opposed to lining them, reducing trades & cost. Plywood linings were selected for interior walls – lower carbon than GIB, and easier to sand children’s drawings off! A plywood kitchen, cast concrete sink & counter and copper splashbacks all made by the client gradually gain a patina and develop with the family, native Totara trims frame the triple glazed timber/ aluminium joinery, and bright doors provide splashes of colour. Economical, robust and beautiful.

Lower Saddle House

Building type:
Single-family residential
Project phase:
Certification type:
Passive House Classic
Year of construction:
Treated floor area:

Team members

Business Role
Respond Architects Architect/Designer
Kane Build Group Contractor/Builder
Joseph Lyth - Respond Architects Passive House Designer/Consultant
Jason Quinn Passive House Certifier
Enveloped MVHR install

Project suppliers

Suppliers Supplied products
Formance SIPs
Terra Lana Insulation
Stiebel Eltron MVHR, hot water heat pump
ProClima Wraps and tapes