News & Updates
It was a cold night, but the weather didn’t impact the enthusiastic turnout to our recent..[content required]
The delivery of affordable housing is a long and complex process that requires the support, and sometimes the active participation, of many different stakeholders, including the private development and construction sector, local and central government agencies, community stakeholders and finance sector.
In the final of three articles on affordability, we consider some of these higher-level contributors under the headings:
- Project Procurement Strategies
- Regulatory Environment
- Delivery Path and
- Ownership Path
Project Procurement Strategies
In structuring a ‘Development Team’, strong, ongoing relationships between developer/builder, architect and full consultant team can contribute to a time efficient economic design process. Varying a consultant team during a development can result in loss of project knowledge and expensive time delays.
In a similar way, the use of singular main contractor across multiple sites and repeat typologies results in build up of ‘project knowledge’, meaning that feasibility calculations can be extended over multiple sites. Repeat units constructed by different contractors can produce different results when consistency is the desired outcome. Strong project and site management can also increase economy during the construction phase.
Clear contractual relationships with the contractor are essential to ensure the required standard of construction, and it is on the basis of this contractual relationship that defective work can be remedied. The reduced size of affordable homes and reduced number of details requires these details to be constructed correctly and consistently.
As discussed in previous articles, prefabrication and offsite construction can lead to efficiencies and protection from weather related time delays. However it is noted that due to the scale of the New Zealand market, and the desire for individuality in housing, to date prefabrication has not been the ‘silver bullet’ for construction costs in this country. The New Zealand construction industry is currently set up to be efficient using on site construction with prefabrication making an impact in relation to components of house, rather than complete homes. We are currently seeing these components becoming increasingly sophisticated, with elements such as fully lined or clad internal and external walls delivered to site.
Project specific consenting structures can be beneficial in minimising consenting times. This can involve a singular Building Consent for a standard typology, where foundations and services become the only site-specific aspect. For larger developments, access to a project specific Council Team at Resource and Building Consent stage can speed up processing and streamline engagement with Council.
An approach we are yet to see trialed in New Zealand is to provide height bonuses for developers amalgamating existing lots. Larger development parcels can lead to densities well beyond those achievable on single residential lots, with policies such as these supporting the need to promote density within existing suburban communities.
Development specific covenants on titles can protect the visual amenity of a development from unsympathetic additions and changes to affordable units by placing requirements for design approval for stipulated work to the exterior of houses or front yards.
Working with Council to achieve innovative approaches to storm water management such as planted recessed swales/cesspits can have the advantage of adding high impact significant landscape features and visual amenity to a development.
It is difficult to sustain affordable housing delivery without consistent strong political and bureaucratic leaders. Given the rapid turnover of governments and politicians this will be an enduring problem for affordable housing strategies. Effective strategies are ones that deliver actions that are difficult to ‘unravel’ or require a long-term agreement with a third party that is difficult to unwind.
While central and local government may take a lead, actual delivery will require the cooperation of key private and non – government partners.
Recently we are seeing the growth of this model, where local and central government agencies are partnering with the private sector to deliver housing, often within mixed tenure public/private developments. Under this model, private or affordable housing is provided in addition to existing social housing through intensification. This in effect is a ‘land release’ program and based on some initial successes, we would expect to see local and central government developing this further as a policy tool.
Transfer programs can see social housing titles and management responsibilities passed to the community housing sector in order to help the sector grow by strengthening its asset base and cash flow. This can also be a vital catalyst in the development of the size, diversity and professional capacities of participating community housing providers, where an expectation would be that growth would move into the area of development of affordable housing.
It is recognised that strategies need to be implemented across the whole of the housing continuum, covering both the rental and ownership market, and that organisations responsible for strategy development and implementation must be flexible, responsive and have environments within which innovation can occur.
Strategies can be effective over the longer term if initial successes are widely reported and celebrated, helping establish ongoing support.
Financing purchasers into homes can be a key component when considering affordability. Low deposit home loans can reduce the deposit and mortgage burdens of low-to- moderate income earners, shared equity and ownership schemes can also reduce the deposit and mortgage burdens of eligible households. Shared equity schemes enable the purchaser to enter into an agreement and share the cost of purchasing that property ownership with, a government or private agency. In this model the agency is directly influencing the affordability of the housing through part ownership.
Housing typologies with built in ‘value add’ capacity can lower the bar to initial home ownership, with the potential to increase the value of their home through development over time.
Over our three articles we have looked at aspects of site selection, house design, and ‘higher level’ influences, considering how they can impact housing affordability. There are other areas that could also be discussed such as around the markets of skills, labour, and material supply, which only goes to reinforce that there are many rungs to the ladder of understanding and dealing with housing affordability in New Zealand.
Demand within the New Zealand building sector is currently constraining the delivery pipeline. The government and independent bodies, such as Infrastructure NZ, have noted that increased prefabrication in the construction industry is a key part of the solution for building at the scale required to meet current housing demands.
Prefabrication means manufacturing and assembling whole buildings or substantial parts of buildings in controlled conditions prior to installation at their final location. Prefabrication spans from small components, two-dimensional panels, three-dimensional volumes through to complete buildings, including hybrid mixtures of these types with traditional construction methods.
At Construkt we recognise the potential of prefabrication, and the importance of understanding prefabrication in a specific way in respect to our local manufacturing, supply, construction and regulatory environment, and in response Construkt has established an internal team to research available options for prefabrication and modular design in the New Zealand construction industry.
As a practice we have a range of past experience on projects using varying degrees of prefabrication, and believe that the increased specific research that we will be able to generate will lead to benefits for our clients in informing them of suitable products for consideration and designing to incorporate specific products and systems. The team is led by Glenn Kevey and Louise Li.
Recently Construkt have worked with Mike Greer Homes and Concision on a 9 unit social housing project incorporating Concision’s prefabricated wall and floor components. In their highly automated factory, Concision prefabricates panelised wall and floor elements, (complete with cladding, insulation and lining). The panels are then transported and assembled on-site, providing the build team with on-site time savings. Another benefit of the Concision system for this particular project is that it can be customised to accommodate a variety of typologies within the design.
In 2017 Construkt was commissioned by a major international housing company as the design partner to assist with tailoring its prefabricated component construction system for the New Zealand market. The exciting aspect of this company’s approach to building is that almost every part of the house, including external joinery, cabinetry, wall claddings, and its unique structural system are all prefabricated components. As such, dramatic on site construction time savings are achievable. Construkt adapted the company’s existing housing typologies to fit with the New Zealand market, all within their prefabrication parameters. We are currently documenting an initial show home for launching the system in New Zealand.
Beyond these larger scale approaches to prefabrication, we are also meeting with and building up a list of suppliers of prefabricated building components.
We are excited about what we are learning and the impact it will have on our design work going forward.
Construkt are proud to announce that staff member Claire Simpson has completed the process to become a Registered Architect at the end of last year.
The path to registration requires dedicated study and hard work, and requires submission of case studies showing a comprehensive experience and knowledge of the profession, and a three-hour verbal examination before the registration committee. We congratulate Claire on such a significant achievement.
Claire says that while the process could be very demanding at times, it was a valuable learning experience and she is very appreciative of the support from her colleagues at Construkt through this process. She is delighted to have achieved this milestone and is looking forward to this next stage of her career.
Alex Sullivan-Brown, in partnership with his university colleague Sindre Johnsen were awarded 2nd prize in the ‘Skyhive Skyscraper Challenge, an international design competition.
The purpose of the ‘Skyhive’ competition was to ‘generate design ideas for iconic high rise buildings in cities around the globe’.
Alex and Sindre’s scheme was commended for its ‘novel structural ideas’ and the ‘clean and sinuous’ form. Well done Alex!
For full project presentation please follow this link: https://skyhive.beebreeders.com/
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.
Harshal joins Construkt with five years’ experience spent working in India and New Zealand. He holds a B.Arch and M.Urb.Des (Hons) from the University of Auckland. Harshal recently completed the Red Cross refugee-assistance programme, which helps displaced people and families to settle in Aotearoa.
What inspired you to work in the architectural and urban design space?
Growing up, I was enthusiastic about two subjects: drawing and science. When I had to make a call as to what professional studies to pursue, I opted for architecture because it has a balance of both art and technology, I love that combination.
I studied architecture first then progressed to urban design. I have always liked the ‘big picture’ where you design for your site while being sensitive to its context, this was a key driver for me to pursue my Masters in Urban Design.
What is it you love about architecture and design?
Importantly, architecture doesn’t pigeon hole you, it offers the flexibility to move across complementary disciplines – from architecture to urban design to interior design.
When it comes to architecture, every day is a challenge because you have to come up with new solutions – there are no fixed equations nor templates to come up with a design solution. It means that what you did yesterday won’t apply today. That’s what excites me the most.
The best thing about urban design is that it provides the context – architecture is expressed in terms of a building’s design; urban design provides the framework. Effectively, it informs the design response and helps the architecture to add value to the site and complement the surroundings.
What is one of the biggest architectural challenges facing Auckland?
Housing. The issue needs proper analysis to develop a long-term plan. A thorough understanding of both the past and the present – housing patterns and typologies, for example – will help us to create a valid solution and ensure housing is relevant for today and into the future.
We need to move to higher density models and we need creative architectural solutions to support this, solutions that embrace speed of construction and volume. Coupled with good urban design the outcome can be quality, connected communities.
What was it that drew you to Construkt?
I’ve been aware of their work all around Auckland for some time – their track record in medium-density design and emphasis on quality is impressive. There is a great balance between urban design and architecture. And I like that they deliver projects from concept to completion. The people are another drawcard. The senior team works to get the best out of you. It’s a great place to be mentored and to grow.
The documentation of eight, three-bedroom terrace houses next to Ashley Reserve in Long Bay has now been completed, and Building Consent is imminent. These terraces continue Construkt’s ongoing presence in the wider Long Bay area with multiple clients, from high level master-planning to residential ‘superlot’ developments.
A key design principle for the terraces was to create a strong sense of connection to the outdoors. This was achieved through the openness to the private outdoor living areas, including generous upper level balconies, and visual links over the bounding reserve and street. Native planting softens the edges of the lots. The forms of the terraces follow the Long Bay Design Guidelines, reflecting the seaside village characteristics of casualness and informality through clear, defined gable roofs and lightness with regard to secondary forms and façade treatments.
Construction of a previous residential super block design by Construkt on nearby Makura Road is close to completion, with many of the units already occupied.
The impressive view from Paritai Drive across Hobson Bay is a defining feature of Construkt’s latest Auckland residential project.
Principal architect Madushin Amarasekera confirms plans for four standalone, high-end units – on one of the most prestigious streets in the country – are currently awaiting resource consent.
Construkt’s brief was to develop the concept design for a suite of luxury, medium-density residences – a contemporary take on suburban living.
The 300m2 three-storey units each comprise four bedrooms and two living areas and are designed to maximise natural light and the stunning outlook. Construkt’s biggest challenge was working within the constraints of the steep, south-facing site: the design team needed to balance the desire to capture the views to the exposed south with the need to ensure comfort and warmth.
Construkt tackled the difficult site contours through design. All units’ living areas are on the same level, which celebrate the views across Hobson Bay to Mt Eden, the city, Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf. The living spaces are characterised by their open access to the outdoors – glass doors on both the north and south façades promote the flow of air and light. High ceilings, limited walls in living areas and fewer, but larger, bedrooms achieve quality space throughout.
The inner units’ bedrooms sit on the top floor with elevated city views. Meanwhile, the flanking units’ bedrooms reside below the living areas, due to height and boundary considerations, and look out onto a private garden setting.
Privacy is a high priority in the upmarket neighbourhood, reflected in the modern aesthetic of the units. The sleek design recedes neatly from the street front, sheltered by the trees surrounding the property.
Construkt selected a muted pallet and simple, robust materials, which complement the overall design.
Bush-hammered concrete, steel-ribbed cladding, glass and timber work together to create a strong, contemporary aesthetic, carefully chosen for their harmonious texture and low maintenance – concrete is quick to work with and steel needs little upkeep.
Once resource consent is granted, the project will progress to detailed design and building consent, with a view to starting the build within 12 months.
Without a doubt, one of the key issues facing Auckland’s growth and sustainability is access to affordable housing. The topic features in the news on a regular basis.
This article is the first of a three-part series that seeks to explore several key factors contributing to housing affordability, specifically: the site, the building’s design and the procurement process.
In this first instalment, we focus on issues related to the site.
An optimal site for residential development is undeniably flat and stable. These features reduce the cost of earthworks and promote efficient land use. Sites such as these are highly sought after by developers who want to achieve an affordable housing model. The challenge is that available land meeting these criteria is scarce and most likely to be found on the outskirts of Auckland.
The affordability challenge is to develop quality, medium-density housing within existing communities and infrastructure, and within a reasonable commuting distance of the city centre.
This largely involves working with brownfield sites, which isn’t without complications – lack of sizeable parcels of land, steep contours, and aging and poorly located infrastructure, to name a few.
Construkt understands these complexities and after years of working with brownfield developments is highly experienced at responding to these challenges. The team is skilled at applying clever design strategies to difficult sites to extract the best from the land available. Indeed, this has been the framework for the successful Northern Glen Innes urban renewal project.
Site layout strategies that contribute to efficient land use include zero lotting, where a home has at least one of its external walls built on the property boundary, terraced housing, allowing a narrow lot size, and positioning houses as close to the front of the sections as possible maximising the rear yard private outdoor living space.
The upshot is that site issues can be overcome with proven design strategies that result in efficient land use leading to more affordable housing.
In late September Construkt hosted Home Excellent Home, an event to showcase its recently completed social and affordable housing in the Torrington Crescent precinct of Northern Glen Innes. The event was well received by the more than 40 people who attended the presentation.
The Auckland housing crisis has highlighted the absence of social housing in the numbers and locations where it is needed. The Torrington Crescent work is significant because, despite the inherent challenges presented by social housing, it has successfully applied innovative design solutions to create high-quality, medium-density housing and a strong sense of community on a brownfields site.
This development features three different housing typologies, namely ‘the terraces’, ‘the big small houses’ and ‘the turn around homes’. Each type responds to a different challenge related to delivering social housing.
Terraces have become a familiar sight within Auckland’s medium-density market but aren’t commonly used for social housing due to perceived challenges such as the need to modulate street façades vertically and horizontally, and addressing front-yard maintenance. Torrington, however, applies clever design strategies to overcome the challenges, all while dealing with the difficulties of a sloping corner site.
The ‘big small house’ combines several units to read as a larger whole. Its sophistication lies in how it provides a three- or four-bedroom home within the same footprint – from the street both houses are identical, positioned side by side. The result, with its strong, regular façade, is a strong identity for the residents and the street.
Common to all the social housing at Torrington Crescent is that the design promotes architectural order and dignity. For more about affordable housing, read Affordability Part 1: Site Matters in this issue of Shaping Space.