Colleen Dicks Home Replacement Project

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CASE STUDY: Colleen Dicks Home Rebuild Project
Colleen’s home is finished and was revealed on TVNZ’s Close Up Programme on Thursday night, 10th February, 2011 at 7pm and given to Colleen.

The story of Colleen Dicks and her dear little house in Hobsonville could certainly fit the definition of a saga: the trusting innocent is pitted against wily professionals, a safe house that descends into the stuff of nightmare with leaks and mould and, eventually, unliveable conditions; court cases that drag on and on, ending in nail-biting tension when defeat is nearly snatched from the jaws of victory.

But eventually, as with all good sagas, there come tales of redemption and reward, knights in shining armour and, finally, a new, warm, safe house for the feisty heroine, Colleen.

Some might see retired teacher Colleen’s leaky house saga, which culminated in her winning a $250,000 judgement against Waitakere City Council in January 2007 after a four year battle, like that.

Battleweary Colleen is a little more circumspect. “It has been a long time living out of a wardrobe,” she says. “I can only say that I feel extremely grateful to the people who have helped me out, but I am still extraordinarily angry that the situation arose.”

The turnaround in Colleen’s fortunes happened after her leaky house win hit the papers when the High Court awarded her compensation and costs. However, in the months that followed Colleen waited while Waitakere’s risk insurers, anxious about the precedence this would set with councils around the country, debated whether to appeal the decision.

At the same time, Colleen learned that nearly $200,000 of costs had been racked up by her lawyers and their experts. Her so-called win would leave her with no actual funds to re-build her house. Around this time John Gray stepped up to help. He had been championing the leaky homes battle through his action group, but was building up an organisation with a wider brief to help homeowners, the Home Owners and Buyers Association of New Zealand Incorporated (HOBANZ).

HOBANZ to the Rescue

“We started talks with Colleen and her family around the time when there may have been an appeal. Our campaign had raised significant amounts of money, so we decided to set some aside to help her and at the same time hobanz_logo_Reg – sml.jpgcreated HOBANZ,” explains John. “We want to look at the broader aspects of housing needs in New Zealand and our Pacific neighbours. There are quite a few like Colleen [estimates vary between 30,000 and 80,000 homes]. We would love HOBANZ to achieve that charitable objective, ultimately a charitable registration.”

This was not a speedy saga. It took John’s team close to 12 months to find sponsors for the project – eventually some 50 suppliers came on board in an exercise of corporate social responsibility.

The leaky house was demolished in May 2009. Early on the team had agreed a complete new build, rather than a re-clad or remediation was best, but hoped to work within the existing footprint of Colleen’s concrete slab. However more detailed work revealed that this, too, was in poor condition and it was demolished in August 2010.

A New House Designed

Architectural designer Marissa Pearson of Scribble joined the project in 2008 and took on the challenge of redesigning the modest 110 square metres of house to better suit Colleen. The pair were constrained by retaining plumbing/drainage services in the same location, but with some clever tweaking Marissa has managed to create a more sustainable, comfortable home for Colleen.

“By re-orienting the entrance way, we protected the house from the prevailing wind and weather. We rearranged the bathroom, toilet and laundry to create better storage and use of space. Double- glazed French doors now open the whole north living room side

to the sun, while we used small windows to the South to prevent heat loss,” she explains. But more importantly, the exterior design was changed to a mono-pitched roof with generous overhanging eaves – a design that does not give water the same chance to enter the building and do its damage. Demolishing the original slab has given the team a chance to add under-floor insulation and a low- energy piped heating to the already highly-speced wall, ceiling and window insulation.

“We wanted this to be a demonstration project,” agrees John Gray. “With the systems like steel frames, mono-pitch roof, aluminium cladding and the latest window technology we start to bullet-proof and weathertight a house. We wanted sustainability – low operating and maintenance costs, good ventilation, ambient temperatures and clean air; secure elements like fire sprinklers and smart energy and security management. In other words, a lovely, modern healthy home.”


The Builder is Appointed

Project manager Kirk Davis of Palladium Homes initially was approached to do the building work, but decided Colleen’s cause deserved more input. While generally used to working on projects two or three times this size, Kirk’s company byword is quality (every house they build is a showhome, proudly shown off by existing clients) so he is up to the challenge of showing how combining all the elements – leak-proof design, steel instead of timber, correct use of cavities and attention to detail – will give Colleen the sound house she missed out on last time.

Final geo-tech reports were issued around mid-September 2010, and the slab was poured on the 4th October. Since then the build has rapidly progressed, with the frames going up on the 5th and the rafters fully installed with the nogs ready for the soffits. The project is running on schedule and should be ready for ‘the big reveal’ by late January/early February 2011.

Steel-Framing Used

An early supporter of the project was the National Association of Steel-framed Housing (NASH) and NZ Steel (suppliers of Axxis Steel Framing) who were only too happy to demonstrate to both Colleen and the wider community the benefits of steel framing in houses, compared to conventional materials. Association head Carl Davies says that the steel framing produced by NZ Steel provides a 50 year durability statement, and is quality assured in terms of production. He points out that the builders on tight-timeframe projects (Kirk has allowed 12 weeks from slab pouring to occupation) can benefit from the speed of erection therefore enhancing their earning potential. Steel framing can usually be erected with little time delay in inclement weather (handy for a build in Auckland’s notoriously rainy spring), does not need time to dry out and, because of its dimensional accuracy, allows follow on trades to proceed with confidence.

Colleen Dicks New House DesignColleen Dicks celebrating her new house

Aluminium Cladding Chosen

More new technology appears on the exterior cladding: Nu-Wall, an aluminium weatherboard system designed and made in New Zealand. The powder-coat or anodised cladding can be applied horizontally or vertically and meets or exceeds the requirements of the current New Zealand Building Code (all three installation methods have been ticked by BRANZ). The product has, until recently, had a low profile but in fact was developed over 20 years ago to keep water out while allowing the passage of air to avoid condensation. Joint and corner details provide external drainage for moisture so it cannot be trapped behind the cladding and cause damage. Specifiers often use the product in conjunction with Flashman Flashing Systems, a new flashing system BRANZ appraised and tested in hurricane conditions, and the Cavibat plastic cavity batten system.

Nu-Wall’s Dave Hopkinson says that the product, previously used in high end commercial projects, is now frequently specified in leaky home re-cladding, so he was keen to jump on board HOBANZ’ Colleen Dicks home rebuild project. He wants to demonstrate that the flimsy American notion of ‘aluminum siding’ does not apply

in this market: Nu-Wall is thicker and tougher, and is stable and durable enough to last the 50 year minimum life of a building (other claddings are deemed replaceable after only 15 years).

“Our challenge is that people don’t realise that Nu-Wall requires minimal maintenance and it doesn’t depend on the finish to keep weather out. Once it’s up, all it requires is cleaning – like your car. Builders like that the whole proprietary system comes complete with the kit of parts they need to install, all they have to do is follow the instructions” says Dave. He points out that homeowners have the reassurance that there is no room for error (“builders can’t bog and paint over their mistakes”) and finds that once they have explored the design and installation options they are well- convinced of the warmth and style.

New Technology Aluminium Window Frames

The precision of metal is continued in Colleen’s house with the advanced window and joinery system provided by Open Building Solutions. The vertically integrated company has turned the aluminium joinery industry on its head. Where traditionally an aluminium company has extruded aluminium profiles and trucked them to fabricators around the country, this McKechnie Aluminium owned company has completely re-engineered both the finished products and the manufacturing and distribution methods.

Marketing Manager, Mark Fisher, explains, “We extrude, powdercoat or anodise and manufacture all the joinery in one place and ship it directly to the building site. This is both energy efficient and gives us cost and quality control. It’s taken us two and a half years to develop this, and we started rolling out in late 2009.”

The company’s blank slate approach to design produced a much larger flat frame – with 35 mm, rather than 20mm flange cover– to ensure greater weather protection, give builders more installation leeway, and stronger support (no need for joinery blocks on site). There are no external drainage holes, and structural integrity and a clean finish are ensured by the cast aluminium corner cleats crimped not screw ported into the system. Even the hardware and locking systems are designed for longevity, easy manufacturing and weathertightness The double glazing system is thermally broken at every junction to prevent window ‘weeping’, while argon filling means the windows have an R rating of an astonishing R.47 (conventional single glass windows have R values of less than R.17).

“This is essentially a bullet-proof envelope for Colleen,” says Mark. “The real advantage is in the saved energy costs to the consumer – and that will defer government and therefore taxpayer investment in power generation. There’s such a small premium for this kind of joinery for a big saving in energy.”

Eco-Friendly Whole House Heating System

A LEAP Thermagenius Heat Pump Water Heating system powers both the production of hot water and the inslab heating system for Colleen’s home. Thermagenius extracts energy from the air outside the home and converts it into heat. Hot water then moves around the home thanks to flexible pipes laid in the foundation and heats the home from the ground up.

Colleen’s house will not only be warm and energy efficient but also safe thanks to an inbuilt Blazestop Home Fire Sprinkler System from LEAP.

The highest specification of Pink Batts insulation will also help minimise Colleen’s energy bills (the project aims for at least R3.6, compared to a building code minimums of 1.3 to 1.9 and best practice of 3.3), while a Fujitsu heat pump from the Healthy Home Group (a subsidiary of Fletcher) will give her immediate heating to boost the ambient heat provided by the heated floor.

Designed to be Dry

House design: mono pitch flat roof, extended eaves, front door protected from prevailing weather

Passive solar design: main windows and doors oriented to north for maximum solar gain, with only small windows for summer ventilation; double glazed joinery (with thermal breaks and argon) to minimise heat loss; insulated envelope in floor, walls and ceiling to maximum of R3.6.

Smart energy: shed-roof precludes use of ceiling cavity DVS system, so window and door placement for natural ventilation; Fujitsu heat pump and underfloor hot water reticulation for energy efficient heating; smart energy and security management.

Colleen’s bathroom will be a glamorous improvement, too, with Plumbing World contributing a superb fit-out with new vanity unit, toilet and bath and taps from Methven, among other things. The HOBANZ project group is exploring further sustainable options with sponsors to increase Colleen’s comfort and decrease her bills – rainwater collection and grey water recycling, for example, and solar collection panels.

“We want to demonstrate low operating and ownership and maintenance costs, that are good for consumers. We want to educate and support them to make the right decisions to get in and get it right the first time,” says HOBANZ‘s John Gray. “Too many people made poor decisions – or didn’t know, like Colleen, at the outset. We have a unique opportunity to create an economic engine to get out and do good in the community. There are too many people like Colleen, but we have a limited chance to repeat this, we’d love to.”

Colleen agrees. “I am actually luckier than a young family with a mortgage and kiddies who got sick. I’m very fortunate that I’ve got family behind me, they’ve been really supportive and a group of people and companies who are helping replace the home I lost. But I’m still very angry that the situation is still being ignored and not dealt with.”

So a fitting end to the saga when the white knights charge to the rescue and the deserving heroine gets her clean, warm, dry house by Christmas.


Design, Consents: Scribble

Project Management: Palladium Homes

Lawyers: Minter Ellison Rudd Watts

Quantity Surveyors: Kwanto

Building and Construction Insurance: Builtin

Demolition: Gabo Demolition

Preparation and Groundwork: Yeoman Surveyors; Slab Specialists

Hard Fill: Winstone Aggregates

Site Preparation & Excavation: Pole Specialists

Concrete: Firth Industries and Slab Specialists

Reinforcing Steel: Wire Plus

Scaffolding: Safeway Scaffolding

Steel Framing: National Association of Steel Framed Housing, AXXIS Steel Framing New Zealand

Adhesives: Selley’s

Insulation: Tasman Insulation (Pink Batts)

Lining: Winstone Wallboards (Gib)

Hot Water System and Sprinkler: Leap Systems

Wardrobes: Wardrobe Works

Electrical Labour: B W Henderson

Plumbing: All Go Plumbing

Cladding: Nu-Wall Cladding

Roofing, Gutters, Downpipes: Dimond Industries

Flashings: Flashman Flashings

Windows & Doors: Open Building Solutions

Front Door: Parkwood

Kitchen Cabinetry: Kitchen House

Fittings: Plumbing World/Methven

Bathroom: Plumbing World

Heat Pumps: DVS/Fujitsu

Appliances: Fisher & Paykel

Carpet: Bee Jay Carpets

Interior Design: Equilibrium Interiors

Tiles: Jacobsen Creative Surfaces

Tiling: Dream Homes

Hardware: Dayle ITM

Skylights: Velux

Paint: Dulux Group

Painter: Kingdom Decorators Ltd

Painter: APS

Security: Cactus Security Auckland in Partnership with Bosch Security Products

Washing Line: Hills

Furniture: Farmers

Furniture: Freedom Furniture

Furniture: Hunter Furniture

Window Screens: Window Treatments

Plasterboard Install: Troake

Drains: Hynds Pipes

Slab: Concrete Laying

Landscape Design: Hamish Dodd Design

Shirt Design: The Kitchenmedia

Shirt Supply: Embroidme

Hire Equipment: First Hire

Freight: Straight Freight


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