The Architectural Design and Building industry has faced many challenges in the last two years, and I don’t believe the pressure isn’t going to ease up anytime soon. Coming in effect shortly is changes to our Energy Efficiency Code, H1, increasing our very low minimum insulation requirements closer to world standards. And carbon footprints in building and materials is becoming a conversation around future compliance requirements.


These changes are good for Architecture, it is good for those living in Architecture it is better for health, both ours and the planet. They will take place I am sure with some grumbling about the already high building cost here in New Zealand. It is more expensive to build here, almost double than in Australia. The cause of that is partly our varied climate, our isolated island location, and our small economy. Most of our building products are imported with the bulk coming either from or through Australia. Another factor is our love for large bespoke homes.

While nothing can be done to our location and local manufacturer still has some way to become stronger and more influential in reducing our reliance on imported products, one thing we can consider right now is the size of our homes.

What I find encouraging is that we are building smaller. Ang article from Canstar, as research company that focuses on building and home loans in New Zealand, shows that on average between 2020 and 2021, the size of consented dwellings has dropped from 12m2 to up to 61m2 across the various regions of New Zealand. Link to the article below.

Gisborne and Hawkes Bay lead the way with the smallest house size average, 134m2  and 138m2 respectively whilst the largest average house size is now 190m2 compared to 206m2  last year. Small smarter spaces are our future and it’s great to see this reflected in the Architectural designs that are currently being approved for building consent.

And whilst costs will still go up, there is the added benefit that reducing the size of new build homes will free up resources to take the quality of the build from the minimum compliance so many aims for, to one that creates a healthy well-functioning space to live in.

Price will continue to be a driving force, and as sustainability, carbon, and energy efficiency become more dominant in our design and building performance requirements, something must change in how we are designing and building. The square meter rate of a home really isn’t an indication of what we are building, it’s a general idea of what it could cost, not an indication of what we are costing. Our housing stock was ticketed by the World Health Organisation in 1980 as being below the healthy home’s minimum standard. 40 years later that hasn’t changed. That means we need a quick sharp shift in our mindsets, from minimum building code targets that facilitate large bespoke homes to a building that works for both our health and that of the planet.

Smaller Smarter Spaces are a large part of the solution.

Link to Canstar Articke.

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Offsite NZ Member    Licenced Building Practitioner    New Zealand Green Building Council
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