Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities

The National Science Challenges are designed to find solutions to some of the large, complex issues that matter most to us. 

Why a Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities (BBHTC) Challenge?

Housing is a fundamental human need. Every person is involved in housing, but we have needs and wants beyond simply a roof over our heads. A home should nurture and protect us. It should be hospitable. It should be dry, warm and insulated to keep us healthy. It should have clean air and sunlight. And it should be part of a community or built environment that also nurtures and protects us.

However, there are significant difficulties in New Zealand’s built environment which the BBHTC Challenge seeks to address. These issues include our housing supply, the quality of our housing, and the vulnerabilities and underperformance of some of our urban environments.  

Challenge Vision

Our vision is: 

Ka ora kainga rua: Built environments that build communities

Challenge Mission

And our mission:

Manaaki tangata: Co-created innovative research that helps transform people’s dwellings into homes and communities that are hospitable, productive and protective.

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Latest News

PLEA (Passive Low-Energy Architecture) 2017 Legacy Document now available online

29 March 2018: On 2 to 5 July 2017, Edinburgh, Scotland, hosted the 33rd Passive and Low-Energy Architecture (PLEA) conference. Cresa’s Kay Saville-Smith and Dr Bev James from the BBHTC Understanding and Re-tooling the Architecture and Logistics of Decision-making research programme presented a paper on Resilience, Ageing, and Adapting to Change. The pair writes that an ageing population coupled with environmental sustainability are two of the biggest challenges facing societies today. “Architecture and urban design are pivotal factors in the challenge of aging well. Population ageing is inevitable and irrefutable. The resilience, sustainability and functionality of our dwellings and the built environment are key to realising the benefits of the longevity dividend, of living well, as well as long. Homes in particular not only reflect the social and economic conditions of their occupants, but can also dictate them. They ideally, can meet the everyday needs and preferences of older citizens and their lifestyles, and additionally provide crucial protection against extreme events and other hazards.

“Many societies promote ‘ageing in place’, ‘lifetime homes’ and ‘age-friendly cities’ that support older people to continue to age in their homes and communities, remain independent for as long as possible and reduce reliance on institutional aged care. But how are those policies played out in practice? Do they have the outcomes sought and expected? How do such policies actually relate to growing trends towards less home ownership and greater renting among older people? How should next step policies cope with emerging demographic and occupancy trends? How can quality of life for older people be maintained in shifting social and economic landscapes? These are major questions for our age.”

To download a copy of the conference proceedings, including Kay and Bev’s paper, please see: Design to Thrive

Vacancy - Doctoral Scholarship: Urban Planning and Māori Development

29 March 2018: This doctoral scholarship aims to promote the development of research in Māori development and urban planning in New Zealand. The aim of this project is to advance current planning frameworks through a better integration of Mātauranga Māori, and indigenous perspectives in urban design, planning, and in the processes of decision-making and community engagement. The project is part of a MBIE- funded programme entitled ‘Map-based tools for community and Rūnanga-led sustainable town planning in small and medium settlements in New Zealand’, which focuses the co-creation of tools to enable the integration of Māori perspectives and knowledge, and other forms of local knowledge, in local planning processes in the Waimakariri and Rotorua. This research programme is a collaboration between the Department of Geography and the Geospatial Research Institute at the University of Canterbury.


Building more houses does not make them affordable

21 March 2018: Professor Laurence Murphy says relying on simply building more houses is not an effective pathway to generating affordable housing as the market is very good at producing market prices. He discusses the challenges of Special Housing Areas with Grant Walker on NBR Radio.

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How we can build the kind of housing we want and need

20 March 2018: If New Zealand is ever to produce enough affordable housing to meet the needs of low and middle income earners, such as service workers, teachers and nurses, it must take action using positive planning and investment.


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