Dr Malini Yugendran
Auckland, February 21, 2023
Cyclone Gabrielle brought about significant flooding and destruction to numerous homes, resulting in the displacement of thousands of people and worsening the housing crisis in the country.
Indian Newslink spoke to two renowned architects to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the housing situation and the pressing need for resilient homes.
Terry Badham, a Māori architect said, “The reasons for this crisis are complex and multifaceted, with a legacy of poor choices and reactive policies.”
He stated that a long-term view and a community-oriented approach are necessary to combat the crisis.
Mr Badham said that New Zealand’s current housing policies have allowed some individuals to profit from residential properties at the expense of those in need of shelter.
Capital Gains Tax
He recommended the implementation of a Capital Gains Tax on investments as a means of redistributing wealth and preventing profiteering from property investments.
Mr Badham cited the examples of the Netherlands and Sweden, which have successfully implemented housing policies, as a model for addressing the crisis.
He advocated a shift away from New Zealand’s reactive approach and toward a community-oriented approach that embraces the Māori worldview and fosters interconnected communities.
According to him, the current approach has led to an increasing lower-tier population and a decreasing upper-tier, which has negatively impacted the social mobility of individuals with low incomes.
Mr Badham emphasised the importance of moving away from this approach towards a more sustainable and equitable solution for all New Zealanders.
He said that the Netherlands and Sweden have housing policies that prioritise affordable and accessible housing for all citizens.
In the Netherlands, the government promotes social housing by providing subsidies to housing corporations and municipalities, while encouraging market-based housing construction.
Additionally, the Dutch government imposes strict regulations on landlords to ensure that renters have safe and affordable housing.
In Sweden, the government provides rent control measures and subsidies for the construction of new housing, particularly in urban areas. The government also places a high value on cooperative housing, which allows tenants to own and manage their buildings, and works to prevent segregation by ensuring that public housing is distributed throughout cities.
A holistic approach
Resilient design involves a holistic approach to creating buildings that can withstand natural disasters, extreme weather events, and other challenges posed by a changing climate.
It consists of three key principles: site selection, building envelope, and passive design.
Mr Badham said, “The current focus is on quantity, with a rush to construct more buildings to meet demand. However, what is really needed is buildings that take into account the specific characteristics of the whenua (land). In particular, it is essential to carefully consider the location and avoid building in gullies and valleys, especially for social housing. Cyclone Gabrielle serves as a prime example of how homes built in these areas are vulnerable to flooding and destruction.”
The building envelope is the outer layer that separates the interior from the exterior and is vital for creating a resilient building. The envelope should be designed to withstand high winds, heavy rain, and extreme temperatures.
Architect Gagan Saxena stressed the importance of considering the weight of roofing and cladding when building in areas vulnerable to liquefaction.
Houses with heavy roofing and cladding are more likely to sustain structural damage during natural disasters, making it necessary to factor these considerations into the design and construction process.
Passive design involves using natural processes and materials to regulate temperature, humidity, and air quality. This approach incorporates features such as natural ventilation, shading, and insulation.
Mr Badham underscored the importance of tailoring passive design strategies to specific locations and climatic conditions.
“In Auckland, where the climate is becoming increasingly tropical, it may be more important to focus on keeping insects out to prevent diseases such as dengue and malaria, rather than solely on thermal insulation. In contrast, in places like Queenstown, triple-glazed windows may be necessary to insulate against colder temperatures,” he said.
According to Mr Badham, building resilient homes requires creating structures that can withstand tension and are flexible.
“In some cases, building beyond the Building Code’s minimum standards may provide greater confidence that our homes will perform better in the event of a natural disaster. We may need to spend a lot more to safeguard from floods. Climate change is real and the extreme weather events are something for which we should be prepared,” he said
Mr Saxena agreed, saying that building beyond the Building Code’s minimum standards is important, and suggested specific measures to achieve the objective.
“This includes adding bracing or building stronger foundations than are required by the Code. I believe that lightweight building construction systems such as timber frame structures with corrugated iron roofing and weatherboard cladding systems perform better in earthquakes, while heavyweight building construction systems such as block, precast panel systems perform better in flooding or slip situations,” he said.
Sustainable design aims to reduce the environmental impact of buildings from construction to demolition. This is achieved through principles such as energy and water efficiency, as well as material selection.
Mr Badham said that using solar panels can make buildings independent of the power grid but warned against focusing solely on commercial aspects of sustainability. He suggested a long-term approach to achieve sustainability goals and avoid just ticking boxes.
Modern architecture incorporates building techniques and technologies that sometimes disregard traditional sustainable architecture principles. However, a combination of both approaches is possible, resulting in aesthetically pleasing and functional buildings that can withstand climate change.
Mr Saxena said, “Modern designs can integrate natural ventilation and shading to reduce energy use, while traditional designs can incorporate modern technologies like photovoltaic panels and energy-efficient lighting to improve energy efficiency. Traditional designs can also improve water efficiency through rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling.”
Dr Malini Yugendran is an Indian Newslink Reporter based in Auckland.