Improving the quality of insulation installation in NZ homes


The Government’s push to rid New Zealand of poorly insulated houses, along with recent changes to the relevant NZ Standard, NZS4246:2016, and changes to the insulation requirements in the Residential Tenancy Act, mean that builders should be paying a lot more attention to insulation installation.

The Insulation Association of New Zealand (IAONZ) is a good place to start.

Initially, IAONZ was formed to support the EECA Warm Up New Zealand scheme, and was funded by EECA to train installers for the scheme for which 2000 people have completed.

Since that time, IAONZ has widened its scope to providing membership services, working with the Government and relevant agencies such as EECA and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), and offering advice and support for home owners and the wider construction industry.

It is committed to improving the quality of the service provided by the insulation industry and increasing the knowledge and competence of installers.

As many builders may know, the New Zealand Standard for installing insulation in residential buildings has gone through a major revision.

The new Standard is NZS 4246:2016 Energy efficiency — Installing bulk thermal insulation in residential buildings, for which IAONZ was instrumental in ensuring that the new regulations supported industry good practice and standards.

IAONZ was unhappy with the initial “final” version of the Standard, and vetoed it. This resulted in the formation of a review committee headed by IAONZ which made several improvements to the document.

If not for IAONZ, the Standard would have been pushed through unchallenged and, potentially, impacted the quality of insulation installed into New Zealand homes.

IAONZ also worked with MBIE to get workable insulation options for the new RTA rules.

The 2016 version of the Standard has been updated and extended, and now provides additional guidance on installing insulation in steel-framed installations, under concrete slabs on the ground, and around downlights.

Easy to follow diagrams and photos have been included to provide step-by-step guidelines for installing all types of insulation in new homes and for the retrofit of insulation in existing residential buildings. It is essential reading for all builders and DIY installers.

Another major change worth noting is that in 2016, MBIE announced that the installation and repair of foil insulation in residential buildings with an existing electrical installation has been banned.

The reason for this is due to safety concerns with the method of attaching the foil. Stapling and nailing the insulation to floor or ceiling joists in often dark and cramped conditions can lead to electrical cables being accidentally pierced, and because the foil is metallic, it conducts electricity and can become live.

During the past decade, there have been a number of deaths and injuries in New Zealand due to this.

The ban covers anybody who is installing or repairing foil insulation in ceilings, walls and underfloor areas — including home handymen — and applies to all uses of foil even when it is not used as insulation (eg as a vapour barrier).

There are exceptions to the ban, and they include properties (new houses or extensions) where the electrical wiring has not yet been installed.

However, foil installed in these circumstances will be unable to be repaired in the future.

Foil bonded to rigid building materials such as plasterboard or polystyrene is not banned either, as it tends to be installed in such a way that it is unlikely any live electrical cables could be accidentally pierced.

Builders also might be aware that from July 1, 2019, ceiling and underfloor insulation will be compulsory in all rental homes, and any landlord who fails to comply with the regulations may be liable for a penalty of up to $4000.

IAONZ president Stu Henwood says the organisation has completed its own membership survey, and found that more than 50% of rental home assessments completed from July to October 2016 didn’t meet the new Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) guidelines and, therefore, required insulation.

Although the insulation industry can certainly handle the forecast 180,000 rental homes requiring insulation spread across a three-year time period, IAONZ is anticipating a tsunami of landlords trying to complete their obligations at the last minute, leading to poor quality installations from some installers.

To prepare for this, IAONZ is conducting nationwide theoretical and practical training courses for its members (with non-members, builders and property managers included) throughout 2017.

Topics covered in the training range from employer-assessed health and safety training and understanding NZS4246:2016, through to insulation installation.

The training will ensure there are, and will be, capable and competent installers available in the industry to manage RTA demand.

In addition, IAONZ is working closely with MBIE to monitor the amount of installations being completed, and to promote the need for rental properties to be upgraded sooner rather than later.

The training courses ($95 for members, $140 for non-members) are held throughout New Zealand at regular intervals.

The first two parts of the course are held at the workplace, and involve employer-assessed health and safety training, followed by a practical assessment covering all types of insulation installation.

Part three is a one-day, mostly hands-on, training session. A four-hour Site Safe Passport course is the final step before an IAONZ “ticket” is issued.

With more and more people focusing on the effects of climate change, insulation is going to become even more important than it is now, both to mitigate the temperature fluctuations and prevent energy from being wasted.

A study by Energy Conservation Management Inc (ECM) looked specifically at the energy-saving benefits of the insulation currently in place in residential buildings in the United States.

The findings of the study were startling. The authors reported that “because of home insulation, drastically less energy is needed to heat and cool homes in the United States today when compared to the same homes without insulation”.

“This difference results in energy savings equivalent to a 255-day supply of gasoline for the entire United States, or to 51% of the total annual industrial energy consumption in the United States.”

This means that IAONZ’s contribution to sound policies and increased knowledge of insulation products and installation could help us look forward to a better future for the planet.

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