GROWING OUT before OUT GROWING

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How can a designed connection in combination with a prefabricated building system be applied to the construction of houses in New Zealand to create adaptive homes which can change with the occupant during their lifetime?

New Zealand has a big problem when it comes to the unsuitability of housing. Urban developments and subdivisions seem focused on the continued and replicated use of the 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom model. The issue with this is that often, many families, first home buyers and current owners are in a position where this prominent model of housing is not suited to their current position in life. No matter what stage in life you may be in, it is unlikely that your house will be able to be perfectly suited to every stage in your life. Not only is this a problem but housing in New Zealand is becoming harder and harder to obtain. Rising prices and unaffordability dominate the market. In previous decades, young couples would purchase their first home to get them started and possibly upgrade as their young family grew or if the situation required them too. Nowadays, if you are fortunate enough to be able to afford your own home it is unlikely you will ever vacate if current trends in the housing market continue the way they are. Therefore, regardless of your situation, you maintain a varying lifestyle in the confines of that home. As our busy lives change around our living environment, is it possible that our homes could do the same for us? Over the past 40 years, New Zealander's expectations in housing size have grown exponentially. In 1976 the average size of a new house in New Zealand was 121 m2. By 2011 this size has grown to 220 m2 (Marriage, 2010). While our homes continue to grow to unreasonable size, the occupancy within them is decreasing with the national average household size in the 2013 census being calculated at 2.7 persons (Statistics New Zealand, 2014). New Zealanders are falling into a pattern of wanting more rooms and more space for fewer people than what is required leading to issues later down the road where the family home is no longer suitable for its occupants. The issue can also be perceived from the opposite position in areas such as South Auckland where household sizes average 4.0 persons (Statistics New Zealand, 2014). Houses in these areas tend to be older and smaller thus from the beginning are not suitable for their occupants. These examples prove the need for adaptable models of housing given that each case is unique and there is a problem relating to suitability at either end of the spectrum. This thesis aims to develop an adaptive building system to provide a new way of constructing homes that are better suited to our needs at all stages of our life. Fundamentally, this research should hopefully change the way we think about constructing homes in New Zealand. An inversion of the current process and will see home construction suited to the occupant at the very beginning, middle and end of their lifespan instead of just a potentially small period. This solution could also bring about change in the way we finance our homes allowing for incremental change and incremental investment over the lifetime of the building. Furthermore, the prefabrication and flexible design of this building system will allow for the construction of homes which are individually unique across a common platform of construction which current modular systems do not allow. Housing will be better suited to our needs as a result. The role of design in this situation is not a numbers game of simply counting rooms and people, but designing a system which allows our homes to better suit individuals lives at any stage.

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