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Christchurch architectural designer Bob Burnett founded THE SUPERHOME MOVEMENT about five years ago, with an eye on how future housing should be built.
The organisation runs tours showing off homes built to standards significantly above the building code, and lobbies Government to raise standards.
Burnett says New Zealand’s building code is decades outdated and the nation’s housing needs to improve fast.
“Hopefully, in 30 years, we won’t be 30 years behind other parts of the world like we are now. We have got a lot of catching up to do.”
Burnett says Christchurch’s mindset “needs to change” from “pushing out further with subdivisions”.
“It’s not sustainable on a number of levels in Christchurch. It needs to start with urban planning and walkable neighbourhoods. Some road layouts in the new subdivisions are wrong for good housing, sections need a long boundary facing north.”
He says while Christchurch’s urban design rules demand that front doors in multi-home complexes face the street, there are no building code requirement for homes to face the sun.
“A hundred years ago villas were built facing the street, and we’re still doing it. We’re building houses with windows facing south … it’s ridiculous.”
Burnett says another issue is the small-scale nature of Kiwi home building. He points to group home builders acting as retailers while contractors – “anyone with a cellphone, a ute and a dog” – do the work.
In contrast, factory-built modular or panellised components have been standard in many countries’ housing for years, he says, increasing efficiency and bringing down costs.
He points to a company in Japan building more homes than New Zealand’s total.
“There’s a lot of research and development. They approach it like they build cars – it’s a lot more sophisticated.
“We are still banging bits of wood together. Possibly, it’s the Kiwi attitude of ‘that’s how we’ve always done it’.
“How do we turn this around? We can show the rest of the world how we can produce zero carbon, energy efficient homes.”