HOLY SMOKES!!  WE HAVE LIFT OFF!! Welcome, welcome, welcome to the initial broadcast of the AltShift NZ status-tracker, lowdown provider, and educational resource - a.k.a blog.  To be able to share this experience of the first AltShift home building in Wanaka, NZ is truly remarkable and an incredible delight.  For those of you who aren't familiar with Atmosphere's AltShift branch, here is a brief fill-in.  
 In search of ways to lessen environmental impact of exhibits and other business associated builds, Atmosphere Studios ventured to put forth an employee owned sister enterprise focusing on more earth friendly designs.  Dubbed AltShift, the eco-offshoot sprouted in 2008; providing earth-wise companies with a more nature-conscious option in materials and fabrication of commerce venues and interiors.  AltShift's success has since proved that there are mercantile operations out there that care about the planet.  (For further AltShift info and work please visit: http://www.atmospherealtshift.com/ ). 
Never standing still, and endeavoring to implement solutions for environmentally unsound assembly techniques, AltShift has decided to undertake its first residential project in Wanaka, New Zealand.  Why New Zealand?  Well, in 2006 by some act of fate (& a shade of foolhardiness), Tom & Diana Jennings put money down on a section of land in a Wanaka neighborhood after becoming enamored with the lake and surrounding area.   Sitting in reserve, the property has thus found its destiny in becoming the grounds for the AltShift residential launching pad.  Here is a quick overview of some of the ecological elements (all of which will be covered in greater detail as their integration comes nearer):
Oriented towards the North for winter solar gain, the home has been designed to include many passive solar components.  On sunny winter days, rammed earth floors and walls will act as thermal masses and trap the day's energy to heat the home through most of the night.  To supplement the thermal mass, there is a high efficiency log burning fireplace (hopefully masonry) with a good mass around it as well.  Straw bale in fill will be used to insulate the shady South side as well as the East and West.  The ceiling will be insulated mostly by wool as well as a large section of living roof over the living and dining area.  Also to be included are many recycled materials, natural sealants & plasters, movable window insulation, greenhouse, and Passivhaus inspired heatpumps and ventilation.
After nearly a year of designing, planning, revising, and even further adaptation, the ground was ceremoniously broken and christened on 10-10-10 by the Jennings family along with architectural designer Trent Laughton and his newly wed wife Diane.

The day after we went back to the site and marked out the general layout and spaces of the home with string and stakes (which brings us to the New Zealander vocab word of the day: stakes/pegs are said as 'peegs').   In the picture below Trent is acting like he is walking out of the front door.

Keeping in line with the 10-10-10 cosmic numbers (intentionally? ;] ) the excavation was scheduled to begin 10 days later on the 20th of October.  Although not fully completed yet, here are some before and after pictures of the current progress from the property corners.  This first set is looking towards the South.  Unfortunately one of my marker rocks was moved by the storage container (lesson learned) but you can see that the tree is in a state of limbo (a non-native species considered a weed).

This next view is looking to the East.  Again, the marker stones got run over and strewn by the placing of the container and the dump trucks taking the excavated earth away.  Keep in mind that this change happened with in a 24 hour period - the power of machines and fossil fuels is nearly undeniably necessary for such undertakings, but not totally.  

This is the view to the West, the most scenic direction towards the lake and Southern Alps. 


This is the view from an elevated position looking towards the West again (a more remote vantage that will become a time lapse shoot location).  Here you can see a bit of the lake.  The big peak in the center/left is called Black Peak (also in the blog's background photo with early morning alpine glow) and the snow covered mountain on the far left is the ski resort Treble Cone. 

Excavation continues tomorrow so check back tomorrow to see the finished dig level.  Hope you enjoyed looking and thanks for reading!  Once again, this is such a special episode and having all of you be able to share and join in a dialogue through the internet is wondrous.  If you have any questions or requests please don't hesitate to comment or e-mail us at altshiftnz@gmail.com.  Also, if you'd like to receive e-mails to inform you when we have updated the blog/added new content, you can subscribe/follow us - don't be shy!  Let the shift begin!!  Peace!!!


  1. AMAZING!!!and congratulations! Let your inspired work spread to many. Love, Merle

  2. This is going to sound very unsustainable, but the large 'digger' did a fantastic job,chomping away at the earth on Wednesday. Finding the water meter was also a challenge and the cold flowing waters that emitted from the tiny puncture were impressive! Learned a lesson in how to dam, reroute and filter water. Loved seeing the many family members add their individual and authentic labor and humor.

  3. So so so excited for y'all!! I want to go to New Zealand!!

  4. congrats to team NZ... I am so excited to watch this process!! Right before our eyes, over the internet we will are able to be part of your journey. Thank you! You are all totally inspirational! holding down the western fort,

  5. How was the trip to the organic farm?

  6. farm was wonderfully saturated with rich colors & life! lots of light, delightful aromas and water - matt/roarke moved livestock between paddocks, carrying a woolly lamb who was lost & scared. many of us relocated large pulsating sprinklers that irrigated organic grasses and created bathing zones for coastal birds. parental ducks herded us away from their babies and snowy mountain peaks glowed in morning rays. ian sent us home with 15kgs of the BEST tasting organic potatoes, their nutrients already changing us.

  7. Ahhh....so f***ing unbelievable to be a part from so far, far away...cheers to all, peace and love, lester