Sustainable retrofit in the New Zealand residential sector

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McKechnie, Stuart
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Bachelor of Construction
Unitec Institute of Technology
Kestle, Linda
Undergraduate Research Report
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
environmental sustainability
performance standards
sustainable development
energy efficiency
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
McKechnie, S. (2010). Sustainable retrofit in the New Zealand residential sector. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Construction). Unitec Institute of Technology. Retrieved from
A large proportion of New Zealand’s existing housing stock performs poorly, particularly in terms of energy efficiency. As homeowners tend to be reluctant to invest in sustainable retrofit activities, policy interventions or initiatives are often introduced in an attempt to improve uptake. The aim of this research was to identify a range of strategies that could be implemented to improve the uptake of sustainable retrofit activities in existing homes in New Zealand. Data was collected from government, industry and homeowners to establish each group’s preferences for different types of sustainable retrofit strategies. The overall objective was to integrate these findings in an attempt to determine whether there was any consensus of opinion. The findings indicate that there was no clear consensus of opinion. In terms of preference for different types of strategies, government appears to prefer market mechanisms and “other” interventions; as evidenced by their support of initiatives such as the residential rating tool, the provision of information and the sponsorship of education and research. Industry believes that regulation and financial incentives have the most potential to improve uptake. Preferred strategies include minimum performance standards and mandatory environmental performance ratings; plus providing subsidies and interest free loans for homeowners undertaking sustainable retrofit. Homeowners appear to favour strategies that are not regulatory, onerous or inequitable. Preferred strategies include financial incentives like interest-free loans; and other initiatives such as fast-tracking building consent processes. As government appears to be willing to let the market decide - and homeowners do not want to be burdened with additional cost - it will be “business-as-usual” unless market transformation occurs. Ultimately, government needs to explicitly realise the benefits of sustainable retrofit, and then proceed to take extensive measures to incentivise it. Homeowners also need to be convinced that the benefits of sustainable retrofit can offset the costs of implementation. Only then will the uptake of sustainable retrofit activity really take off.
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