Kiwibuild - Offsite and high functioning

Courtesy of Metrapanel

Kiwibuild is a once in a generation opportunity. The scale of production presents unprecedented opportunities for offsite manufacture and assembly to change the way we build forever. The desire to deliver new affordable homes and to deliver at scale is matched only by a social desire to createinclusive communities that will capitalise on their transport based hub locations and incorporatea built environment that meets the needs of all people, regardless of age or ability.

This means that universal design must be understood and incorporated into this new planning and design process. Kiwibuild is a large scale government intervention programme that aims to build 100,000 dwellings over the next 10 years. Whilst these dwellings are for first time home owners, the option for certified universal design and high performance is undeniable.

Whilst many offsite manufacturers may claim they can build a home to any design, the nuisances of high functioning homes is not prevalent in most current designs and for some this may become their Achilles heel in a competitive market place.

There are over 80 standards developed by Lifemark that can be used to deliver a universally designed dwelling. The key areas to fully understand and demonstrate competence in, are the Bathroom, Kitchen, Living area and how the landscaping will also help deliver accessible entry points.

Bathroom designs involves a clear understanding about toilet location and why positioning next to the wall and the space requirements in front or beside a toilet are important. Toilet height, wall hung vanities, floor surfaces, lighting and colour contrasting are also relevant.Shower size, structure and level entry options are alsokey requirements.

Kitchens need spatial dimensions that can accommodate ease of use, reduce overreaching and support drawer based storage solutions. Bench tops and floor surfaces should also be selected to demonstrate how these canprevent illness and falls.

Living spaces requirean understanding of doorway widths, circulation space measurements,universally designed fixtures and fittings and how the Lifemark approved product range can make living easy for everyone. Finally how the dwelling will interact with the physical environment to ensure level entry access points is equally important. This involvesunderstanding and delivering a completesolution and not just supplying building materialsthat have been joined together. As Theodore Levitt, the founder of marketing once said “people don’t want to buy a ½ inch drill, they want a ½ inch hole”, so keeping an eye on the ultimate goal of creating new well-functioning communities is paramount.

When the Swedish and Norwegian governments embarked on large scale social housing projects, a complete systems approach was undertaken and designs were chosen that were cost effective and also elegant and attractive. High functioning homes and communities were mandated by their respective governments and it is likely that similar expectations will be placed on New Zealand industry suppliers.

To be successful and take advantage of this game changing opportunity requires new and innovative thinking. It is not just the production process, but how the final product works that really matters.

The future can and should be offsite manufacture and assembly combined with high functioning homes that together deliver the Kiwibuild solution of everlasting,thriving and inclusive communities.

Geoff Penrose

General Manager, Lifemark.

Lifemark is a not for profit businessowned by CCS Disability Action that offers a certified rating system for universally designed and high functioning homes

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