Changing our Future

Ernst Frei and Peter Bielski featured in Stuff and ECCA’s Changing Our Future series.

Ernst Frei says his concern for the environment is natural – he cares about what his 18 grandchildren are going to end up with. Frei, and builder Peter Bielski, are working on Bushland Park – New Zealand’s first Passive-House certified subdivision in Halswell, Christchurch.

The first two three-bedroom, two-storey houses are at gib stopping stage and will be auctioned in May. The homes, the first of 11 planned, are designed to meet the super-strict international Passive House standard for energy efficiency. They will have continuous mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, and 6kW solar power systems, expected to generate as much electricity as the households consume. Chargers for electric vehicles will be installed on each property. The wool for the insulation even comes from sheep grazing in the next door paddock.

Frei, alongside his wife Renata, has grown organic vegetables over four decades at the 18 hectare site, after becoming New Zealand’s first commercial organic poultry and free range egg producer in the 1980s. He’s planted about 5000 natives in the past year, mainly those that would have originally been in the swamp forest; species such as kahikatea, totara, and lancewood. “I’m just somebody who questions things and looks at why we do what we do,” Frei says. “If I see a better way, I want to do it.”

Bielski established his company Ethos Homes in 2016, after learning prefabrication methods and working in Passive House construction in Germany. “The reason we’re so excited,” Bielski says, is that it’s a community-orientated, sustainable subdivision where every home is ultra-energy efficient, it’s the future of building and living. He, his wife and four children are looking forward to joining the community at Bushland Park themselves.

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