New Zealand Commercial Design Trends Series NZ Commercial Design Trends Vol. 30/9 - Page 83

MARKET REPORT URBAN DESIGN HOUSING DENSITY Shifting thinking – Aecom structural engineer Isabella Franks puts the case for higher density living Above:Well-designed higher density living is the solution to Auckland’s housing crisis – Aecom structural engineer Isabella Franks says our cities have much to gain from the practice. New Zealand is one of the most urban nations in the world, with 86% of us living in towns and cities. Over the coming decades our cities, in particular Auckland, will become increasingly urbanised as the population grows and changes. Not surprisingly, the design and management of housing will play an important role in the creation of thriving, connected and liveable cities. But right now our cities are struggling to provide a choice of quality, affordable housing where people want it. The problems of affordability in Auckland and Christchurch are impossible to ignore. Both cities contain suburbs defined by one typology, restricting the options for people to buy in an area if their financial means do not match that particular housing profile. This is especially limiting for young people looking for a first home, or older generations looking to downsize. Even with our exorbitant house prices and limited choices, Auckland is considered one of the most liveable cities in the world. Its beautiful landscape, regional parks and climate are obvious lures, but it also benefits from the metropolitan ability to stimulate human creativity, which makes cities enjoyable as well as productive. The main function of a city is to improve the life of its citizens by bringing together ideas. The success of being directly inspired by those in close proximity is evident in Wellington’s growing tech start-up scene and Auckland’s recent boom in superb cuisine. Access to human capital in larger cities means the flow of information and ideas is amplified. As our small population grows, we must plan and build our cities in a way to best capture the creativity of New Zealanders. This can be achieved by strategic densification. as long as it is not on my street!’ Such short-term thinking needs to change. The Auckland Plan and The Unitary Plan are a great start. If we want a choice of affordable housing in 50 years, Auckland needs to limit urban sprawl and densify. More importantly, it needs to densify well. A common misconception is that high density means high-rise. Unfortunately high-rise failures exist throughout our main cities. Many of them deserve their poor reputation, such is their often dreary, monotonous physical form characterised by inadequate internal space, ineffective shared areas, poor natural light and watertightness issues. However, these examples are more often the product of poor planning, bad design, careless construction and/or inadequate management and maintenance, rather than the number of apartments or people within. Misconceptions When it comes to discussions about the growth of our cities, New Zealanders are often suspicious of the idea of higher density housing. I don’t blame us; the benefits are not well articulated. Nimby-ism is rampant in our neighbourhoods ‘It’s fine to intensify around Auckland, I am all for it, Higher density can be achieved in many different layouts and forms. It is a matter of choosing the right urban form for the neighbourhood and surrounding community. By linking in quality private and communal space with attractive and functional housing, we can create areas where people love to be. SEARCH | SAVE | SHARE AT 81