It may come as no surprise that New Zealand’s house prices are some of the world’s most unaffordable.
Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland are now rated ‘severely unaffordable’ in this January’s Demographia report¹, with Auckland ranking the seventh-most expensive city to buy a home in. The Real Estate Institute claims already-high house prices across the country are increasing 1.5% year- on-year, with Auckland house prices averaging out at a whopping $
862,000 each. 2
In 2018, launching KiwiBuild was the New Zealand government’s answer to the housing crisis. Stopping the sale of Kiwi homes to overseas buyers would stem the tide of rising prices. 100,000 new homes built over the next ten years would ensure enough New Zealanders could rent and buy a home. Price-capping and buying off the developer’s plans would keep the prices down.
With KiwiBuild expected to deliver only 300 of its projected 1,000 houses by July this year, the sector needs a helping hand. Key issues facing the housing crisis need to be solved so that the government can avoid what BNZ’s chief economist Tony Alexander mused could be “another year in which much discussion will occur about the problem, but solutions will again fail to appear.”³
Since the Demographia report was published, Niche Modular have been working with Housing New Zealand to tackle these key issues head on. What are the key issues they face? A need to crunch timelines while still delivering safe, secure and affordable homes that New Zealanders would actually look forward to living in.
Volumetric modular solutions are the answer to these problems. These modules achieve the same quality and use the same materials as a traditional build, but don’t need to be constructed on a building site. This leaves the site free for clearance, demolition, groundworks, drainage and the laying of the building’s foundations. This cuts down both the time needed for the build and often costly time on site.
Niche Modular’s Project Design Manager Jacques De Bedout notes the ability for construction and siteworks to be carried out at the same time solves tricky timelines.
“With the Kiwi housing crisis in full swing, we just don’t have time to prep the site and build on separate timelines. Volumetric modular technologies allow both processes to occur at the same time, a benefit which is invaluable if we are to build 100,000 new homes over the next decade,” he says.
Wordsworth Poutini is another medium-density collaboration between Housing New Zealand and Niche Modular, and is about to start construction in Manurewa, Auckland. It offers a mix of building typologies – one, two and three-bedroom units alongside two four-bedroom townhouses – which together form a total of four blocks on site.
This type of build is designed to feel like a traditional neighbourhood, where people in the community can see a mix of housing levels and sizes as they pan the area.
Allowing for a mix of different typologies in the one space can make a building feel like a community, and a house feel like a home.
“As many have said in the sector, it’s not medium or even high-density projects that we have to fear, but the way in which they are designed and delivered,” De Bedout says.
“Designed well, medium-density housing can bring people and their communities closer together, encouraging a sense of innovation. Having our construction facilities based off-site allows us to continually perfect how these designs are delivered to, and serve, the end New Zealander.”
Building waste can also impact on our environment – and can be minimised using volumetric modular technology.
Housing New Zealand will be taking advantage of this technology when they build their largest volumetric modular housing development to date. Titled The Mt Wellington Project, it is currently in its design phase.
In The Mt Wellington Project and their other housing, education and commercial work, Niche Modular’s volumetric modular constructions use next-to-no water, as they don’t mix any concrete and use minimal wet trades. Off-cuts and building materials are recycled for future projects.
Noise from construction, often the bane of a building site’s local residents and businesses, is shifted to Niche Modular’s production facility in Lower Hutt. The final installation of the volumetric modules on site has been described as a “very silent operation.”
Combining speed, efficiency and reduced wastage for our future housing projects, De Bedout is very excited about how volumetric modular technologies can benefit New Zealanders.
“Of course, we’re delighted to be able to assist the government in producing more affordable homes that Kiwis actually want to live in,” he says.
“It’s great that they’re using these technologies to solve the housing crisis that little bit faster.”