Project HEAT Offers Free Eco-Design Advice

As much as I love living in Whanganui, I must admit that Palmerston North has impressed me. From the Palmerston North City Council website:

“Palmerston North has a strong focus on becoming a sustainable city. Reducing the city’s energy consumption is critical to this goal. Ensuring that homes in Palmerston North are warm and healthy will also build towards a sustainable community.”

From a job vacancy posted by PNCC:

“The overall purpose of council’s strategy is to facilitate a decrease in the amount of non-renewable energy used by households. This role plays a key part in achieving this through the provision of advice and information within the community on sustainable building, energy efficient retrofit and design on a one-to-one basis to residents.”  Screen shot 2014-04-12 at 7.17.53 AM

By contrast, two efforts to establish a similar programme with Wanganui District Council have been less inspiring. The first came in the form of a comprehensive Community Contract application with letters of support from six well-respected community groups. It was declined due to its lack of relevance to the WDC 10-year plan. (Never mind that power prices have doubled in the last ten years.)

The second effort came in the form of a visit from Richard Morrison, who serves the role described above for Kapiti Coast District Council. He presented to WDC and then to a small group of interested local professionals including myself. I may never forget the words of the council staff member representing WDC administration following Richard’s presentation.

“There is concern that the job title sounds too green.”

And with that definitive statement, effort number two bit the dust.

Job title: Eco Design Advisor.

The following councils have full-time permanent eco design advisors: Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Kaptit Coast, Hutt Valley, Nelson, and Invercargill.

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In the wake of these two failed efforts to work with WDC to help Whanganui residents improve the health and energy efficiency of their homes, Project HEAT came into existence through a casual conversation followed by an anonymous donation.

Project HEAT (Home Energy Awareness Training) provides free, independent advice to Whanganui residents on how to save energy and money while making their homes healthier. Last year, over 400 Whanganui residents benefited from free presentations on eco-thrifty ideas for the home, free home energy audits based on the eco design advisor model, and low-cost DIY workshops.

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Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Of those who completed the survey following a home energy audit, all said they would recommend the service to a friend. Comments included:

Practical, objective, low cost suggestions from someone who isn’t trying to sell you any particular product. You feel like you are getting genuine well-researched advice that you can trust.

It made me think about how to keep the heat in versus keep heating a cold home.

Lots of different tips to save energy. It’s great to have a selection of improvement ideas. I’ll use different solutions in different areas. Awesome!

Practical, functional advice.

Practical solutions with a real space to visualize solutions.

Excellent explanations re: heat loss and cheap, effective solutions. How to fit a window blanket.

Thanks to additional anonymous donors along with other partners who have been recognized elsewhere in the local press recently, Project HEAT is back for 2014. Expanded programme offerings will include the above along with free drop-in advice at certain community events as well as the Saturday River Market – starting today!

Watch the sidebar to this column over the next four months for upcoming events.

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Free Eco-Design Advice:

Warm, Dry, Healthy Homes. 12th April, 10 am – 1 pm. River Traders Market, River Exchange and Barter System (REBS) stall, Taupo Quay.

Permaculture: Working with Nature: 13th April, 2 pm. River Room Community Arts Centre, Taupo Quay.

Warm, Dry, Healthy Homes. 19th April, 10 am – 1 pm. River Traders Market, River Exchange and Barter System (REBS) stall, Taupo Quay.

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