Planet-Friendly Foundations

Published: 25 May 2023

When it comes to meeting higher energy efficiency, standards in underfloor insulation, Malcolm Cottle from Ecodome shows us how to exceed regulations and reduce environmental impact.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise’s Building for Climate Change programme was set up to reduce emissions from both constructing and operating buildings and to make sure buildings are being built with the future effects of climate change in mind.

In the 2021 Building Code Update, Dave Robson, National Manager of the Building Code, stated, “We acknowledge that increasing insulation levels will only take us so far, and other house features also need to be improved.

This is just the first step – further changes are coming that will look at more holistic ways to decrease emissions, and to ensure New Zealand’s houses are warm enough to live in comfortably and support good health. These changes will be critical to ensure the health, wellbeing and the environment for future generations and the country as a whole.”

When increasing the energy efficiency of our homes to improve health and combat climate change, Malcolm says, “It feels counterintuitive to put more polystyrene into our homes to meet the new energy standards, which is even worse for the environment.”

While many underfloor insulation methods rely heavily on polystyrene, Malcolm says, “Cupolex is one of the only systems in New Zealand that doesn’t always require polystyrene to meet the regulations.”

Thorough research has led to the Cupolex system meeting H1 Building Code compliance. “Extensive testing and thermal modelling, using the ISO standards has led to the development of a thermal blanket, for under our dome system that also acts as a damp-proof membrane,” says Malcolm.

The Cupolex EcoDomeTM is an eco-friendly alternative to a waffle raft foundations. It uses Italian-designed structural domes to replace hard fill or polystyrene in concrete foundations. The domes are manufactured in New Zealand and are made from 100 per cent recycled from industrial waste that would have ended up in landfill. Once the building has reached the end of its life, the EcoDomesTM can be recycled again.

The unique EcoDome design has fewer points of contact with the ground to ensure a warmer floor. Malcolm explains, “If you wrap your hand around a steel pole, it will feel completely cold, but if you just touch the pole with your fingertips, it’s not going to drain the heat nearly as much.” This is the idea behind creating an underfloor void to minimise the points of contact between the home and the ground.

This compact, zero-waste system is designed to make savings in concrete, steel, labour and freight – looking beyond energy efficiency requirements, towards a future where building homes has a lower environmental impact.

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