Affordability Part 2: Building Design
Non-negotiable outcomes for all housing are the provision of warm, dry and safe homes that are weathertight and durable. Consideration of sound urban design principles is also essential as we view the housing as not only contributing to the wellbeing of the homeowners and tenants, but the wider communities that they form a part of.
Construkt are also currently working with New Zealand and overseas companies to explore aspects of prefabrication and innovative construction systems. Both are areas where measurable improvements in affordability could be made, generally through the time savings achieved by a streamlined construction process. It can often appear that these prefabrication models work effectively overseas but struggle to make a significant impact in the local scene. Two reasons for this are the small size of the New Zealand market and the preference for individuality within New Zealand homes. What is exciting to observe right now is that even with these limitations, companies are working to find aspects of prefabrication that are able to impact construction cost and processes – watch this space.
Another protocol employed to achieve economy and affordability is that of repetition and modularisation. The use of repetitive modular housing typologies can streamline the documentation and construction process at a large scale. Repetitive building design has the risk of resulting streetscapes to be monotonous and lacking in variation. To avoid this, we can provide alternative roof forms to the same typology, group the houses in different configurations, and perhaps articulate the street facades slightly differently. In effect, we develop a diverse streetscape with our base module, and a ‘kit of parts’, used in alternate ways. A single plan that is designed with dual outdoor living areas, allowing it to work in multiple orientations, also provides the economy of repetition by allowing the same design to be used across various sites. Construkt’s recently completed social and affordable housing in Torrington Crescent, Glen Innes is an example of how effective this strategy can be.
In considering the exterior of a building, expenditure and detail should be targeted to areas that will have the greatest visual impact. In most cases this will mean greater levels of expression to the front street facades and less to back and sides.
Landscape treatments such as fencing and front yard planting, and well-considered external colour schemes are both cost-effective strategies that can make a significant difference to the quality of the wider urban environment.
Another successful approach to affordability that Construkt have employed recently is where a house has been designed with 3 bedrooms and a garage for the Resource Consent obtained by the developer, but only the living module and first 2 bedrooms are built initially. This smaller house is able to be sold as an affordable unit. Over time owners can develop the house to include the already designed and consented additional bedroom and garage. Under this model we would say the added value is already built into the house. This model has been favourably received by the market.
In closing, one of the most valuable contributions we make in discussing affordable housing, is in defining what we mean by affordability. As we view affordability through a wider lens, we recognise that it is not only aspects of building design itself, but also issues around regulatory processes, financing and models of shared equity that contribute to housing affordability. We will look at some of these in more detail in our next article.