Universal Design in Golden Bay /Mohua Housing Project

Golden Bay, in the Tasman region of New Zealand’s South Island, has a dire shortage of affordable housing to rent or purchase. Just 7% of the current population are able to afford an average house.

Chris Bennett had worked for the World Bank in Tonga where they built just under 400 homes after a cyclone, so he decided to start the ‘Golden Bay/Mohua Affordable Housing Project’ (GBMAHP). His goal is to build potentially 100+ affordable houses, with an approach that could be easily replicated elsewhere.

Many of these homes will incorporate Universal Design principles. Chris worked previously with Universal Design principles when developing a process to apply it to donor financed transport projects in the Pacific Islands. He helped recruit a team of people with disabilities who visited six different countries identifying barriers in the built environment for those with mobility issues. These issues were then worked through with local authorities.

‘Chris in Tonga where he led the construction of affordable housing after Cyclone Ian. This work was the inspiration for his Golden Bay project.’ 

Chris believes Universal Design is a form of future proofing that fits perfectly into the vision for this golden bay housing project.

Few people recognize that everyone will at some point in their life suffer from a disability. So Universal Design is the starting point for every home that we build. By incorporating Universal Design principles early on in the building process you can make very small changes that can make a huge difference to the quality of life.

These can be as simple as ensuring that you use levers rather than door knobs; your toilets have a height of 450 mm or the power plugs are 500 mm above the floor; the kitchens have drawers rather cupboards.

For houses aimed at seniors or persons with disabilities, applying Universal Design you can make huge differences to their ability to maintain independence.

Not only that but he also believes Universal Design can be achieved with no or minor costs!

There is a common misconception that Universal Design principles lead to higher costs. Overall, the cost differential is minor compared to the benefits. Of the issues relevant for our houses, 68% had no cost implications, and 17% had only very minor cost implications.

So, if you can address some 85% of your Universal Design goals for no or a minor cost, why wouldn’t you want to?

In Phase 1 of this project eight of the proposed nine houses are ‘Universally Designed’ two-bedroom houses.

The homes are designed by Goodison Architecture, so what will a GBMAHP ‘Universally Designed’ house look like?

Concept image of ‘Tui Preliminary Accessible House’

These houses have the thermal envelope constructed using ‘Structural Insulated Panels’ (SIPs) for the roof, walls, and floors. SIPs consist of an outer shell, insulation, and an inner cell. A Formance factory in Christchurch will manufacture the panels and ship them to Golden Bay.


Concept image of ‘Tui Preliminary Accessible House’

We Asked Mark Goodison the director of Goodison Architecture about the design on these homes that are projected to achieve Lifemark® rating.

Goodison Architecture haven’t worked with the Lifemark® standards before says Mark.

“We have not worked with Lifemark® previously. It was a process we were unfamiliar with and was a request of our client. We understood it would have benefits for the occupants of our housing project, so we were happy to consider Universal Design.”

Design plans extract with ‘Wet Shower’ area that has level entry, 860 mm wide doors, and grab rails

Mark sees the importance in public housing achieve levels of Universal Design.

“Universal Design leads to solutions in key areas where New Zealand has growing issues. Affordability in construction has been a moving target in recent years, we expect better results here, but with our aging population having suitable housing that will respond to their requirements is the next challenge, typically these requirements add cost when renovating, However, if we can find ways to reduce costs with Universal Design, being it modular or prefab we can afford to create an environment that will cater for the occupants during their lifetime.”

The Lifemark® team are very excited to be working on this project with Goodison Architecture and Chris to address the housing crisis in Golden Bay.

We look forward to seeing how this project progresses over the coming months.

How cool is it to have like-minded people like Chris and Goodison Architecture working together to build homes that will be great for our ageing and less agile kiwis at the top of the South Island!

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