Camp glenorchy project a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most companies”


Camp Glenorchy Project

a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most companies”

Posted 19 May 2020 by Optum

Described as “An exemplar application of technology to achieve zero energy”, Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat is a true living marvel, and we say “living” for a reason. The camp is New Zealand’s first Net Zero Energy accommodation and is designed to the Living Building Principles challenge. The winner of multiple, prestigious awards such as Time Magazine’s “The World’s Greatest Places of 2019” and New Zealand Tourism Industry Aotearoa’s “Sustainability Innovation Award 2019”, Camp Glenorchy is a testament to the innovative spirit of all who played a part in bringing the project to life.

Optum Plumbing and Energy Solutions was engaged to complete all plumbing, draining, heating and solar work, for Camp Glenorchy. In accordance with the Living Building Challenge – one of the most challenging certifications to achieve in the area of environmental building design – the goal for Camp Glenorchy was to use 50% less water and 50% less energy than standard accommodation facilities worldwide. The plumbing requirements were highly specialised, and when Optum Plumbing shouldered the enormous task of installing all plumbing, drainage, solar and heating for the campsite, the outstanding result of their efforts earned them the 2018 Project of the Year award at the New Zealand Plumbing Awards.

Local operator, Optum was a natural choice to implement designer, Steve Jarvis, of HDS,’ vision for the infrastructure. Being leaders in sustainable energy solutions in the region, Optum had a high level of experience with all renewable systems involved. The project required a working-knowledge of a wide variety of systems including solar hot water, ground-source heating, wastewater, photovoltaic solar, rain water-harvesting and water treatment and filtration, and Optum Managing Director, Kevin Henderson, is extremely proud of the role his team played in the establishment of this world-renowned campsite.

Queenstown Plumbing and Heating
“The layout and design had to be strictly adhered to, as every litre of water, flow rate, pipe diameter, every pump, every watt of power, everything had to be accounted for, to maintain the Living Building Challenge Approach that our clients wanted.” Alongside the elaborate design, one of the biggest challenges Optum faced was the sourcing of components from as far away as Europe, and the installation of the system in extreme and adverse weather conditions. Components had to be ordered well in advance to ensure there would be ample time for deliveries to arrive from abroad, while also keeping track of stock sourced in New Zealand. The logistics then had to be meticulously planned so that all components required for a certain installation could be transported the remaining 40km from the closest major town to the remote build location, with everything arriving on time and in order. To add to the logistical challenges, the extreme weather experienced by that part of the country made flexibility and innovation a must when working to conditions.

Optum’s contribution was a keystone of the project success, and a shining example of the capabilities and resourceful attitude of the company. Described by Henderson as “A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most companies”, the project stands as the most exciting and compelling case-study a plumbing and energy company could ever demonstrate.

Leading the way with heat pump technology

Leading the way

with heat pump technology

Posted 11 March 2020 by Optum

Our brief for this stunning Jack’s Point home was clear; the heating system needed to seamlessly meld into the home design in both aesthetics and operation, while retaining a high level of efficiency for both underfloor heating and domestic hot water.


The home is spacious, with underfloor heating throughout and four bathrooms utilising on-demand hot water, so the heat source is sized accordingly. The system includes 2 x Stiebel Eltron 16kw Internal Heat Pumps, connected to a 700L buffer tank and 500L domestic hot water system.

The key to subtlety

Understandably, our client wanted to keep visual and sound impact to a minimum. This was made possible by the product specified; Stiebel Eltron provide highly specified, quality heat pumps that are extremely quiet to run. The heat pumps are installed in a basement below the house with direct ducting and extraction to the outside.

Jacks Point

How it works

Underfloor heating: The 700L buffer tank is heated to 40°c for the underfloor heating. Using a large buffer tank increases system efficiency by minimising the running time of the heat pumps i.e. the heat pumps run long enough to heat the tank, then run cold during the day when the air temperature is warmer.

Domestic hot water: The 500L hot water cylinder is heated directly by the heat pumps to 60°c. A large cylinder was chosen to accommodate hot water usage and the heat pump always heats domestic hot water as the priority. There’s also a 6kw electric element in the cylinder if back up is required, so no risk of a cold shower!

Here’s the plant room:

System control

We like to keep heating control simple and user-friendly with the additional benefit of controlling remotely. We installed Heatmiser Neostats into each room, connected to the wifi via a Neohub unit, allowing each room to be controlled individually via the NeoApp smartphone app. Whether our client wants to adjust room temperature or set on/off times, all the operation can be done on a smartphone prior to arrival – smart technology to maximise comfort.

Monitoring technology

This system showcases advanced heating technology from a monitoring aspect. The system is connected to an internet based ISG Gateway controller, allowing our heating technicians to monitor system efficiency and make subtle adjustments to the operation, without needing to attend site. This new, improved technology allows us to provide our client with a personalised service and reduces the need for costly call-outs.

Want to learn more?

If you’d like to know more about the heating systems we install, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – we pride ourselves on delivering high end, efficient systems that meet the specific needs of architectural builds in the Queenstown-Lakes area.

Harness the sun’s energy with solar

Solar PV

Harness the sun's energy with solar

Posted 27 November 2019 by Optum

Central Otago, Wanaka and Queenstown all have the most beautiful bright sunny days. The weather in our region is perfect for harnessing the energy from the sun and turning it into power or home heating. Solar solutions are smarter, cheaper and build value in your home.

We work with Sunz Energy technology to design and install your solar system. We aim to provide your energy requirements, lower your carbon footprint and give you better savings in the short term and better return in the long run.

​Benefits of solar

Energy savings

You can save on the power bill by installing an efficient and effective solar energy system. Your savings start immediately protecting you from rising electricity costs. A Sunz system can supply up to 90% of your hot water and we estimate your bill can be reduced by about 35%. Depending on the size of your home you could have the system paid off within 6 years.

Long-term value
Installing a solar system is a smart way to invest in your own home. Low energy homes are becoming more popular as government schemes come in to play and people are looking for alternate solutions to living independent of power systems.

How solar works

The most simple and cost-effective type of solar system is a grid connected, or grid-tied, solar panel system. You may have seen them on roofs. They are made up of two main components, the solar panel and the inverter.

Solar panels take sunlight and convert it into DC electricity; the inverter turns DC electricity into AC electricity you can use. A grid connector system will export excess power to the grid in the day, then at night (when the panels are not producing power) energy will draw back from the grid. Check out this little video to get the idea:

Quality systems, design, install, save

We work with Sunz Energy to provide quality systems; they were ranked as one of the top two performing units in an independent performance report for the EECA grant scheme!

We have a particular interest in solar energy here at Optum; we have qualified solar specialists who look after installation right through to connection. We custom design a plan to suit your energy needs. We install only the leading technology and we will assist with the required paperwork and inspections to get your system up and running and set for life.

So if you want to make the most of summer, chat to us about solar solutions today. They are smarter, better for the environment, save you money and add value to your home.

Read more about our solar systems

Sun, gas and wood powered home heating

Mt Barker Off Grid House

Sun, gas and wood powered home heating

Posted 6 May 2019 by Optum

In a recent rural project at Mt Barker, Wanaka, we installed a complex yet highly efficient off-grid system that involved utilising power from sun, wood and gas for water and home heating. Here is more about that project and how the various components of the integrated heating system work together for maximum efficiency.

Three energy sources work together

All three sources of energy – sun, wood and gas – are set up to contribute to the heating and hot water for summer and winter:

Summer: solar contributes most, if not all, hot water; gas is backup

Winter: solar contributes what it can; gas and wood fire are backup

Thermal store hub

The Rotex Sanicube thermal store is the hub for the hot water and heating and can collect the energy from various sources and deliver the heated water to various locations/requirements.

Wood fired boiler

The main source of hot water for the thermal store in winter is a Thermalux Linea 20kW wood fired boiler powered by a Linea wood burner. This wood burner has a glass front as a normal freestanding fire would have, but instead of a standard wetback, the fire has a water jacket that sits on three sides of the fire box and is able to generate up to 20kW of hot water quickly and deliver up to 8kw of heat to the room .

The heated water is delivered to the thermal store by a low energy pump and heats the thermal store directly without a heat exchanger.

Photovoltaic solar

The photovoltaic solar panels provide all the energy to power the home. Any excess energy is directed to the Rotex thermal store to heat the water via an electric element, effectively acting as a “battery”.

More about solar energy

Gas hot water

There is a Rinnai Infinity gas continuous water heater also connected to the Rotex thermal store. This provides an on-demand boost to the hot water should the solar or other energy sources not provide the hot water or heating demand required.

The Rinnai is connected to heat the body of water within the tank (so not connected to a heat exchanger) and is regulated by a controller to run by a time period on/off setting to allow the other energy sources to provide as much energy as possible. The time period settings will power up the Rinnai and pump at a pre-set time and can be adjusted to suit the highest demand times for domestic hot water and central heating.

The Rinnai will only boost the water temperature up to 60°c in the middle of the Rotex. The boosting will only be adding to the heated water already in the Rotex (assuming the PV solar and wetback have raised the water temperature to say 40°c, the Rinnai will only heat up the water the extra 20°c required). This will happen if a large demand of water has been used and the solar and wetback do not have time to recover.

The Rinnai is a very efficient water heater and, if required, could heat the entire 500L in approximately 30 minutes. An electric element would take approximately 6 hours, which is very slow recovery. A standard central heating boiler can produce 24kw or 37kW of energy, while the Rinnai can produce 56kW for a much smaller and controllable unit. The Rinnai will heat very quickly and keep up with huge demands if required.

The Rinnai makes system integration with the solar and wetback easy by allowing the renewable energy sources to operate first and then boost only if required.

Water stratification

The Rotex thermal store allows for water stratification – meaning that the temperatures can be set to achieve different temperatures within the tank at different levels.

Bottom of the tank set to 30-40 degrees to use for underfloor heating

Middle of the tank at 40-60 degrees for domestic hot water

Top of the tank at 60-80 degrees for radiators

Using the stratification within the tank allows the use of the various heating and hot water requirements to be delivered with maximum efficiency. The Rotex also has 90-100mm of insulation which is double that of the standard domestic hot water cylinder.

The bottom electric heating element will draw energy from the PV solar to heat the water from the bottom of the tank upwards. This allows as much energy to be added to the tank as possible from the solar PV. The top element can be used to heat the top of the tank for domestic hot water requirements in the event of a breakdown of the other systems.

Monitoring of energy consumption

While this is an energy efficient system, like any heating system, it will be worthwhile to monitor power consumption to maximise the times of the highest power usage with the maximum solar generation. The shoulder season and winter will utilise the gas boosting more often because of the heating demand within the home and more limited PV solar generation.

We advise and help our clients to take the time to monitor how best to utilise the heating. The best way to do this is to set the underfloor heating to 18°c. If you find that this is not warm enough for your comfort, add another degree at the wall thermostat and carry on until you find the temperature that is comfortable. The higher the temperature you need for comfort will require a higher energy demand from the Rotex, which then requires more energy to be produced from the energy sources.

Radiator heating

The radiators are a quick form of heat for the bedrooms, but due to the higher temperature required to provide heat they will use more energy in a short space of time. Again, it is best to monitor the heating and times required for your comfort and what the ultimate temperature setting the radiator thermostatic valve is to be set at. The radiators can be used to take the chill off the room or toasty warm which will pre-set the demand on the Rotex and energy/heated water to be replaced.

Underfloor heating

The heating of the underfloor is controlled by Neostat thermostats and can be adjusted by time and temperature. The times can be set to when you want the heating on and off and the same for the radiators. If the fire is on and the room gets to the pre-set temperature on the thermostat (e.g. 19°c) then the floor zone will go off, saving energy and heated water from the Rotex.

More information

Mt Barker off-grid energy case study

Water heating

Central heating

Solar energy

New efficient radiant heating system

Queenstown Plumbing & Heating

New efficient radiant heating system

Posted 26 April 2019 by Optum

The new Messana Active Panel provides a new option to heat a home from the ceiling or walls within the home. The active panel provides heating or cooling within the home using radiant heat (like underfloor heating in a concrete floor). An air to water or ground source heat pump can provide the heating or cooling source at low temperatures for a high efficiency system.

What are the benefits?

There are a number of advantages to installing the Messana Active Panel system for heating and cooling.

Quality radiant heat

  • Provides a radiator type of heating due to the quicker heat response time by not having to heat the whole concrete slab and using a lot of energy to get up to temperature
  • Radiant heating or cooling can still add warmth to a concrete or tile floor

Simple, efficient and flexible

  • Allows the use of one heat pump to do all heating and cooling. One system does it all from one trade with less servicing
  • The ceiling can still be zoned and controlled similar to an underfloor heating system for different rooms and different temperatures
  • Easier to control in our Central Otago climate where there can be low temperatures outside in the morning but as soon as the sun comes out, the rooms can get hot and uncomfortable due to the floor still being warm with underfloor heating. Similarly in the summer it can be used to cool down to low temperatures when it gets too hot (with no fan noise and draughty air blowing into the room)
  • Provides “active cooling” to cool rooms to similar low temperatures to the typical air conditioning system, but without the draught or air and the fan noise
  • The panels have an “R value” of 1 to add to the thermal efficiency of the home
  • Running costs are low due to using a low temperature heat source air to water heat pump or ground source heat pump

Easy installation, minimal use of space

  • Always accessible from a wall or a ceiling, unlike underfloor heating pipework in a concrete slab
  • The panels can be installed in walls to act like radiators but without giving up wall space
  • It can be retrofitted into homes with minimal repairs (if any)
  • The panels are hidden behind the gib board and have no visual impact on the rooms

The many benefits of the Messana Active Panel system align with our values here at Optum. We believe in creating a home environment that comes with comfort and health for the family, throughout the whole home, not just one room.

Tried and tested

Messana Active Panels have been tried and tested in Europe for over 30 years and 7 years in California, which has the heat, cold and high humidity to test any heating system. It is good to know we will not be the guinea pigs and testing ground for a new system and that there is great support in the background from both the supplier, Waterware, and Messana themselves.

The Active Panel provides comfort and health by providing the optimum temperature much quicker than underfloor heating and can also provide silent and draught free cooling with minimal impact on our local environment.

Other considerations when deciding on a heating or cooling system

How many times have you been awake at night because it was too hot to sleep, or the conventional heat pump was too noisy, or it is too windy to open the window and the room got really stuffy?

How would it feel if the room was at the optimal temperature to get the best sleep and wake up feeling great?

Everyone tells me that they don’t like a bedroom too hot, but I would rather get out of bed in 16-18 degrees than 5 degrees any day of the week! Or have the room at 16 degrees in the summer and wake up feeling good after a full night’s sleep.

How about the health of the family living in the comfortable temperature all year round? No dust being blown around by the conventional heat pumps, no cold and damp rooms in winter, fewer visits to the doctor with colds and flu.

How about the running costs with low temperature heating providing a highly efficient system?

How good would it be to adjust the temperature of your room or other rooms without getting out of bed, simply by doing it on your smartphone?

Here to help

At Optum we have a team with lots of knowledge to help and advise on what’s possible. If we can help with any further information on the Messana Active Panel or any other type of heating, please get in touch. There is no obligation and we are happy to help you live in the comfortable and healthy home you deserve.

Solutions to architects’ most common challenges

Front foot

Solutions to architects' most common challenges

Posted 25 February 2019 by Optum

Another year has passed and we have had a break to reset, refresh and recharge the batteries. It is a good time to reflect on 2018: what went well, the successful projects and being proud of the achievements. It is also valuable to pinpoint areas for improvement: what were the glitches that caused anxious moments, stress and maybe some embarrassing situations that are avoidable in the future. No doubt the New Year will have challenges, changes and successes to look forward to!
Front foot

Getting on the front foot

While you may have had many successful and enjoyable projects and happy clients, it is human nature to focus on the ones that didn’t go quite so well. A little constructive reflection will go a long way in helping you to avoid these challenges in the future. Considering what you could do differently, what changes could you make now to have ‘the ambulance at the top of the cliff’ or better still, not need an ambulance at all! Wow, how would that feel?

We asked architects, “What is the biggest issue you face right now?” Here is what they had to say:

  • “Keeping up with the fast change in technology and products”
  • “Managing the expectations of the clients and budget constraints”
  • “Time and cost restraints, getting the necessary details together from suppliers and contractors for the project plans”
  • “Getting specialist information early from contractors to prevent costly changes later. Engaging the right people early and getting expert advice that complements the design but will actually work, and ensuring that the experts take responsibility and accountability for the information they have provided”
  • “Good design and specification information that will minimise “RFI’s” from the local TA”
  • “Contractor and subcontractor communication issues. Lack of communication, collaboration and doing unauthorised work without the knowledge of the architect”
  • “Consultant and design work being different to what is carried out on site. Different products and installation procedures being used on-site leading to a lack of responsibility and accountability. The end product causes a lot of stress and uncertainty for the client and architect when it doesn’t work to the client expectation”
  • “Subcontractors and contractors only looking at and pricing their particular trade without highlighting the possible crossover of the trades and vital sections being missed and unaccounted for, which can be costly and embarrassing when not picked up until much later in the project.”
  • “Lack of quality workmanship and adherence to the drawings and details”
  • “Lack of relevant training or education on the latest products and technology”
  • “Not knowing ‘what is possible’ with technology and product only to find out later there was a much better integrated solution”
  • “No accountability or responsibility for mistakes”

Sound familiar?

We have distilled some of the key points that will help things go smoothly in the future.

Background: Using an experienced company that has actually carried out successful projects, with great references and testimonials relevant to the project type you are working on.

Value: Seek out the best value partners. Being cheapest is not always the best solution, as we all know. Working with partners who have a sustainable business model ensures longevity and on-going support and maintenance for your client in the future.

Inclusive: Find a company that can provide a lot, if not all, of the services, to minimise crossovers or skill gaps that can become costly and embarrassing. Better still, ask them to find someone they trust to provide a total package solution.

End-to-end solutions: Use a company that will provide the consulting and design services and, more importantly, will do the installation to the specification and design provided. This option will deliver better integration and efficiencies for the systems installed, and lifetime accountability and support.

Solid suppliers: Only use contractors that have back-up and 100% support from their suppliers and will rectify any problems without question. Contractors with solid relationships with their suppliers provide you with confidence that any technological or product issues will be solved seamlessly.

Qualified: Check the credentials of the contractors to ensure they are qualified in the use of the highly technical products being installed. Be confident they have up-to-date training and knowledge of the systems they are installing.

Knowledge: Choose a company that can provide education and training on the latest products and technology. Check they have the ability to service and maintain the systems installed; this means you maintain the efficiency benefits and longevity for your client. Be sure you are confident in the quality of the advice and information you receive.

Communication: Work with teams that are excellent communicators. Working in collaboration with all stakeholders is the key to efficiencies and smooth sailing.

Your secret weapon

Smart decision making upfront ensures sound execution of a project end-to-end. We hope these simple ideas can kick-start the year with some fresh thinking. Great project partners can become your secret weapon in executing a project plan effectively.

We believe in finding and trusting the right experts in any field and bringing quality contractors onboard to provide exceptional service.