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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Home insurance issues

The current New Zealand Listener (July 30 to August 5) has an interesting article on home insurance and what it describes as the "The home insurance crisis - what you must know". Not quite the reveal all the title suggests but a good read on some of the background to household insurance in New Zealand, issues for earthquake claimants, and the increases premiums everyone in New Zealand will face.
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Friday, July 29, 2011

Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country

Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country very accurately describes every person and family that has made the decision to live and work in Christchurch, despite past earthquakes, and with the uncertain prospect of more shakes in the future.

As it happens it is the title of a handbook developed for the San Francisco Bay Region. In recognition of the fact that settling in the San Francisco Bay Region involves exposure to the risk of earthquakes, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) along with a number of local governments and agencies prepared information for residents. The information covers the geological factors and earthquake history of the area, future earthquake scenarios, plus how to prepare for and respond to an earthquake. It even has a section on seismically strengthening your home.

The handbook has a greater depth, breadth, and pragmatism than we have yet to see in New Zealand. Perhaps, one day, CERA or EQC will produce something the same which describes what living in Christchurch means in earthquake terms. In the meantime it is a good place to start for those of us who have decided to stay in Christchurch, or those who want to move here.

The USGS website is here and the handbook in PDF form here.

The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) has an Earthquake and Hazards Program website here (it would make a good model for the councils in Canterbury to follow).

An example of how New Zealand cities vulnerable to earthquakes could help prevent structural hazards in homes is the ABAG Housing Vulnerable to Damage in Earthquakes web page here. What the page contains is an analysis of the problems some building styles and materials present, the damage that can be anticipated as the result of an earthquake, the expected property losses, and what retrofitting could be carried out to reduce the vulnerability. 

I think most of us would anticipate a disinclination amongst local body politicians and senior managers to upset property owners so perhaps CERA and EQC could run a trial in Christchurch to see what can be achieved?

Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country, and similar titles, for other parts of the US can be found here.
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

AMI answers some insurance questions

The post on the 15th of July was headed Some questions for insurance companies (here).

The list of questions it contained was our submission to CanCERN when they called for insurance related questions to be put to AMI. AMI is the biggest insurer in Christchurch and has been working behind the scenes with CanCERN to identify and answer issues experienced or anticipated by claimants. 

CanCERN and AMI staff spent a number of hours working through the questions and recording the answers and responses. CanCERN have now made the list of questions and answers available in the word.docx format from Google Docs (here). With their permission a PDF version is also available from this blog's site on Google Docs here.

Please keep in mind that the answers shown in the list are what I would consider "informal": they need to be formally ratified with AMI before we can been confident of anything. There are also a couple of answers that need to be worked on, and no doubt more questions will arise. Having said that, I feel CanCERN and AMI have done a lot of valuable work to make life easier, or at least clearer, for AMI clients.

Hopefully other insurance companies will go along the same track too (there are signs that some of them are interested in doing so). If your insurance is with another company you may still find this useful as a primer on what to expect from, or ask of, your insurance company.

I don't want to spoil the fun by telling you what is in the document but one of the highlights from page one is:
  • If a house has already been deemed uneconomic to repair will re-assessments be made and, if so, why? No
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Holy Trinity in the snow

Walking through Holy Trinity on Monday it was easy to imagine those long interred there feeling at home. It more than ever resembled the English world that created it.

St Francis Hall



North door and nave walls


Cemetary on the eastern side

North East end of Church

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Snow photographs

Some photographs of around and about from the middle of yesterday.


Retreat Road near Dallington Bridge


Dallington Dairy
12 more photographs of the area can be found on Avonsideblog @ flickr here. 
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Monday, July 25, 2011

Earthquake Information Update 25th July - Lianne Dalziel's newsletter

Lianne Dalziel, Labour electorate MP for Christchurch East, issues occasional newsletters on electorate and earthquake matters. This newsletter covers
  • options and issues on land values,
  • CERA's Housing Options expo,
  • temporary accommodation assistance being withdrawn for those in the residential Red Zones
  • disaster recovery lessons from Japan
The newsletter can be found here.
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Sustainable and Smarter Homes - Links

For those looking for information on sustainable homes the links below may help you get started. Click on the subject heading to go to the web site concerned.

The aim of this guide is to promote environmentally sustainable development and to encourage people to design new residential buildings that interact positively with the various elements of their local environment.
The result should be buildings that use less energy and have a less damaging environmental impact on lives than equivalent buildings designed without any regard for these factors.
Also on this page is the urban design guide plus guides to buying a section, building a garage, and design guidance for building in the city's SAMs (special amenity areas).

Future Proofing - Benchmark Homes
You have probably already heard about future-proofing, but have probably wondered exactly what it means and how it will benefit you. Future-proofing is about building properties that will meet today’s requirements, and the changing lifestyles of tomorrow. It may cost a little more to build, but the long-term benefits of a future-proofed home should more than outweigh any extra initial costs and will ensure your home maintains and improves its value.
The web page has a check list of features to look for.

Building your Sustainable Home - Lincoln Envirotown Trust
This section of the Lincoln Envirotown website seeks to promote Selwyn businesses and others that follow sustainable and environmentally friendly business practices and offer sustainable building options to people seeking to build or enhance their homes in an environmentally and sustainable way.

Creating healthy, affordable homes - Smarter Homes
You've just taken the first step towards a home thats warmer, drier, healthier, more comfortable, more affordable and kinder to the environment. Find out more.

Sustainable Homes - Auckland Council
The Sustainable Home Guidelines provide a practical guide for good practice eco-building with up to date information about energy, water, materials, safety, waste and other eco-building issues to build your dream eco home or to simply make your existing home a little more sustainable.
These guidelines are not just for building or renovating a house - much of the information is about simple things you can do in your everyday life to contribute to sustainability - saving energy or water, making your home safer and healthier or just more comfortable to live in.

Modular Eco Kit houses - EkoKit
Owning a sustainable home has never been more affordable. EKOKIT is a range of self-build eco houses that have been specifically designed to be flexible, sustainable and within the price reach of ordinary New Zealanders. While the major components of an EKOKIT are prefabricated and delivered to you in a container, EKOKIT is not a kitset in the usual sense – it is rather a system for building a sustainable home that minimizes the waste associated with traditional house building while also keeping the cost at a sensible and affordable level.
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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sustainable building

Level is a website created by BRANZ (Building Research Association of New Zealand) for the construction industry. The focus of the site is sustainable building.

Although aimed at designers and builders, it can easily be used by anyone looking at having a new house built. Each of the pages described below has a great deal of information. Even if rebuilding is not going to be possible, the information provides useful ideas for assessing the suitability of any existing home you might look at.

The website (here) consists of pages dedicated to:

Site Analysis: "Understanding the site is the first step towards designing or substantially renovating a house that will minimise its impact on the environment, minimise the use of resources and be comfortable and healthier to live in."
  • Looks at climate, hazards, weather, services and infrastructure, site conditions, landscape, culture and heritage.
Site Use: "The positioning of a house on a site is a crucial part of the preliminary design of the building project."
  • Looks at legal requirements (Resource Management Act, District Plan), positioning of house, location of other structures and features.
Passive Design: "Passive design is the key to sustainable building."
  • Looks at building location and orientation on the site; building layout; window design; insulation (including window insulation); thermal mass; shading; and ventilation.
Water: "By minimising water use, and making good materials choices, you can reduce running costs, cut demand on community infrastructure, and reduce harm to the environment."
  • Looks at water supply, water use, handling waste water, and suitable appliances.
Material Use: "Building materials account for about half of all material use worldwide and about half the solid waste generated."
  • Looks at construction systems, choice of materials, minimizing waste, quantifying the environmental impact of the materials that might be used.
Energy: "A typical New Zealand home consumes 10,500 kWh of energy per year. "
  • Looks at heating, cooling, lighting, electrical design, ventilation, and the choice of appliances.
Wet Areas: "... the rooms or spaces containing sanitary fixtures and appliances – including bathrooms and en suites, toilets, laundries, kitchens, entries and garages."
  • Looks at statutory requirements, wet area design, structure and materials.
The website is here. For information on Homestar, "... a New Zealand home rating and advisory tool that examines a broad range of home performance and resource consumption-related issues and is applicable to both new and existing homes." click here.
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