HOUSEPLANTS - A Housing Production and Design Assembly System

North elevation
North Elevation - Showing the system in application.

New Zealand’s housing affordability crisis is among the most severe in the developed world. While this is the result of a complex mix of social and economic conditions, housing design typology and their corresponding construction processes can have a significant impact on the rate of housing construction and affordability. Despite record building-consent numbers, in-situ detached-dwelling construction, design and planning continue to dominate our housing landscape and the business interests of our construction industry. These construction processes are highly inefficient and ill-suited for application in high-density residential construction.

This thesis approaches the housing affordability crisis as a design issue from the perspective of design efficiency and its impact on housing outcomes. It identifies recent improvements in prefabrication techniques and the capabilities of engineered-timber technology as possible alternatives that are highly suitable for use in high-density residential construction.

As such, this thesis asks the following as its core research question: How can prefabrication and engineered timbers accelerate the development of high-density housing to provide more sustainable, cost-efficient housing in New Zealand’s urban neighbourhoods?

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Initial concept sketches, showing housing as part of infrastructure (and vice versa) and the possibility of a scalable construction system.
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Spatial Design, Planning and Construction Inefficiency - Housing design and construction are intimately connected with typology, and these factors go hand-in-hand with the continued sprawl and car dependance of our biggest cities as a primary cause of an inadequate pace of new housing construction. Auckland has pursued densification of its outer suburbs, yet the ‘villa belt’ that surrounds our city centre sees significantly less new housing development than suburbs in South and West Auckland despite being in prime location for housing density. In a housing affordability and climate crisis, we must ask why this is.
Gridsystem image trial 1
Initial modular design concept with basic stackability and connection principles - as in this thesis, design simplification is not to be avoided but is the goal. This thesis identifies recent innovations in digitised prefabrication methods and the capabilities of engineered timbers as a promising combination for large scale multi-storey housing development, and argues that these methods would also present a significantly more sustainable alternative use of our massive forestry resources.
Exploded mod
Exploded modular prototype with catalogue items. An extensive catalogue of modularised parts were developed for use with the modular structural frame, with the theory that the efficiency of unitised production can provide benefits at all levels of building construction.
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The chosen site: 14-16 Akepiro Street, Mount Eden, Auckland (Upper Dominion Road Junction). The nearby future Auckland Light Rail path and the site's light industrial surroundings made for an effective position for the first implementation of the modular system, one that could support both greater density and a radically new typology as already demonstrated by Ockham’s neighbouring ‘Daisy’ project.
WEST pers dronshot
'Akepiro Assembly #1', together with its densest neighbours, would aim to form a new high-density residential neighbourhood close to the Dominion Road high-frequency public transport and within walking and cycling distance of the city centre. This would represent significant gains across building construction, spatial and environmental efficiency compared to our common detached-dwelling development which still dominates the housing construction industry and our urban environment.
Floorplan - Level 1 / entry
Floorplan - Level 5
Sunny day
Perspective - Entry spaces, greenery, shared courtyard
Tech long section beta
Section detail