The future of living is coming to Christchurch: New Zealand’s first Passive House neighbourhood is now under construction in a beautiful rural location at Westmorland.
Bushland Park is being developed by landowner Ernst Frei in conjunction with specialist high-performance builder Ethos Homes, and there is nothing passive about their combined passion for this project.
Ernst purchased the 18ha farm on Cashmere Road in 1979 and set out planting the exposed property with many fast growing exotic trees. In 1982 he began converting the farm into a BioGro certified organic market garden, and the farm later became home to New Zealand’s first commercial organic poultry and free range egg producer. The farm now grazes sheep and cattle.
For the past 20 years, Ernst has been replacing exotic trees with extensive plantings of natives. This has inspired the name Bushland Park for this new community. “It’s not Mountain View Estate with not a mountain in sight,” Ernst says. “It’s not Westmorland without a moor for miles.
“I’ve been here for more than 40 years and I know I’ll eventually have to sell, everyone has to in the end. I’ve planted tens of thousands of trees here and I didn’t want a developer to come in and tear it all down. I wanted to create a community with the best possible housing, and retain as much of this bush as possible.”
Ernst is more than happy to take care of the planting himself. He has also worked on the surrounds of the development, building a barbecue area, a playground, and a flying fox. He has installed stone paving and built park benches, a hopscotch, and a four square on the shared living road, as if he was doing it for his own family.
But when it came to the housing, he wanted to call in the best he could find. He had heard Peter Bielski, owner of Ethos Homes, talk at a sustainable living event, and did his homework before contacting Peter. “He called me saying ‘You don’t know me, but I know all about you’,” Peter says. “He told me about his vision and it totally resonated with our values as builders and a family.” So much so that Peter and his wife Amanda plan on living at Bushland Park with their four children.
Peter learned his trade in Germany and feels the New Zealand Building Code is woefully inadequate. He started Ethos Homes to deliver an improved construction process and measurable thermal performance for his clients.
Ethos Homes has already built five certified Passive House homes in Christchurch. Bushland Park is unique in that all 11 homes are targeting Passive House Plus certification. Certification is done by an independent expert. “Getting certified is a guarantee for the owner that their house will perform to the exacting European standard for extreme energy efficiency. The house will remain at a comfortable temperature all year round, using only tiny amounts of energy for heating and cooling.
“A certified Passive House home also has amazing indoor air quality. It’s perfectly ventilated all the time, the air is fresh and filtered and it’s beautifully quiet inside,” says Peter.