Sustainable Building

Wolfgang Kessling

We like to encourage a dialogue on how to build better, sustainable and affordable houses for our temperate Northland climate. We are interested to find and share experiences and insights to develop Northland specific buildings which use as much local materials as possible and are designed for our comfort and needs.

In November 2016 we hosted Dr Wolfgang Kessling, partner at global climate engineering firm Transsolar. Wolfgang shared key building principles with us. See his slides here.

We started a Slack community and invite you to join us.


We organised to visit some Northland houses like rammed earth, adobe, mud brick buildings to learn about alternative techniques. If you are interested to get in touch with some of these sustainable building innovators, please contact us.


Here are a few ideas on self-sufficient, renewable energy for the cross-generational eco-village concepts:

Fig: self-sufficient passive house
Reducing the carbon footprint by being off-the grid, using less energy and producing your own energy on-site is a great start. If you then look at the transport aspect and power your mobility solution from renewable energy, then it starts to get really interesting. This could be electric bikes, electric or hydrogen vehicles. Or even better walking more again.
In terms of the renewable energy, if you have a land area with a slope, this could be used to produce energy from solar and wind. You could store your access renewable energy in a gravity fed hydro system. This means you pump water up the hill with the surplus renewable energy, and release the stored energy through an efficient hydro turbine to generate energy when you need it. The excess water could also be used to irrigate your vegie & herb fields.
Another concept is to grow traditional Maori vegetables and herbs again. This is done at Akerama Marae. The learnings could easily be transferred.
On the sustainable building topic, it makes a lot of sense to trial different approaches including passive housemud brick, solid earthrammed earth, straw bale, traditional Maori design and hybrids of these.
Interesting architects and designers include in NZ Graham NorthKen Crosson. Internationally Wolfgang Kessling is very knowledgeable in creating buildings which fit best into a particular environment. Wolfgang presented at our Kiwi Innovator Series last year and is a good friend of mine.
One idea could be to get young Maori families into building their own sustainable house trialing different materials, concepts and approaches. Over time a Northland specfic affordable, sustainable building is likely to evolve.
NIC is interested to sponsor a competition to come up with the best materials, designs for an affordable house for the average Northlander.