Message from the Chair

Kia ora koutou

The Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities | Ko Ngā wā Kainga hei Whakamāhorahora National Science Challenge is entering its second year of active research, and this newsletter contains a range of stories about the research that has been funded to date in the Challenge's six Strategic Research Areas.

Between February 2017 and February 2018 the Challenge Directors (Ruth Berry and Dr Jessica Hutchings) completed negotiations for contracts totalling around $20 million for research to be completed by June 2019.

Over the next six months, discussions will be held with a wide range of stakeholders about the Challenge's research strategy for the period July 2019 - June 2024.

On behalf of the Challenge's Governance Group I would like to thank BRANZ, our host organisation for the Challenge, and the Directorate team for their support over the past 12 months. As we head into what promises to be a year of intense debate about housing and the development of our towns and cities, we will be disseminating, through this newsletter, many insightful contributions from researchers supported by the Challenge.

Ngā mihi nui
Richard Bedford
January 2018

Challenge to build better

The Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities – Ko ngā wā kāinga hei whakamāhorahora National Science Challenge is one of 11 National Science Challenges established by the government in 2013.

Eleven challenges were progressively launched from late 2014 with the aim of focusing research effort on significant issues that matter most to New Zealanders. The Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities (BBHTC) challenge, hosted by BRANZ, was launched in May 2016.

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Transforming the building industry: State of Nation knowledge report

The research team from SRA6: Transforming the Building Industry has just released a State of Nation working paper. This combined report, addressing the key themes of: Innovation; People; Technology; and Process, represents the first deliverable of a multi-year project for guiding and supporting the transformation of the New Zealand building construction industry. The report presents the findings from a comprehensive literature review and a series of focus groups and elite interviews conducted in Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington. Then, based on the findings, the future research questions and recommendations.

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Toi Ohomai gets $700k for Maori health research project

With the launch of the Kāinga Tahi Kāinga Rua research programme in mid-November, the Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology received $700,000 in Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science Challenge funding to research new designs for sustainable and affordable homes and identify how these contribute to health and wellbeing for Māori.

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NZ's hidden homes

New research offers practical, community-based solutions to New Zealand’s housing crisis by turning existing stock into far more affordable, fit-for-purpose homes.

A new report from the Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science Challenge shows around 12% of New Zealand’s housing stock is significantly under-utilised and many houses could be partitioned to deliver up to 180,000 new dwellings.

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Land costs and affordability

It has become taken for granted that the cost of housing is driven by land prices. Certainly, the land price is generally the biggest ticket item in the cost structure of a new build.

Builders and developers say the cost of land is a major barrier to building dwellings that low-income and middle-income households can afford. A National Science Challenge project is looking at what drives land prices.

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Investing in affordable homes

While central and local government are encouraging new builds and the release of land for residential purposes, high numbers of residential new builds are not affordable housing for those with limited resources.

Up to the 1980s, New Zealand enjoyed a steady supply of affordable housing, but now there is a serious shortage in many centres. A National Science Challenge project seeks new ways to address this issue.

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Can higher density enhance liveability?

Higher-density housing requires quality urban development to deliver liveable, walkable communities. A National Science Challenge-funded survey in Auckland showed this is what people want from where they live.

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Rebuilding great neighbourhoods

In the wake of the devastating Christchurch earthquakes, Opus Research has been investigating how to rebuild great neighbourhoods. They developed an online computer-aided survey that incorporated complex scenarios and involved survey participants answering questions that revealed the trade-offs they would make to meet their needs and preferences. This process allowed participants to build a picture of what their life might look like if they lived in the inner city at different stages of the city rebuild.

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Supporting regional settlements

The strength and integrity of regional settlements in Aotearoa New Zealand is under scrutiny, with questions about how to reboot struggling regions. There are economic and demographic issues linked to quantitative evidence of declining and ageing populations and challenging economic circumstances.

In response, National Science Challenge: Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities has the objective of building a better understanding of the lived experience of regional and small town New Zealand. Its mission is to support local efforts to make these places more attractive to live, visit, work and do business.

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Valuing sunshine

The famous Swiss-born French architect Le Corbusier once said that people needed space and light just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep. To paraphrase, dwellings that are situated or designed with good exposure to sunlight are generally preferred as places to live and work compared to those with lesser light levels. Now, research organisation Motu Economic and Public Policy Research have managed to put a price on that sunshine.

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Putting knowledge into action

While it’s agreed the construction industry needs root and branch transformation, for this to happen, government will need to take the lead and companies will need to be incentivised to do things differently.

With National Science Challenge 11 (NSC11) Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities (BBHTC) well underway, initial work on the Transforming the building industry strategic research area (SRA) has focused on establishing the current state of industry knowledge. From this, we can plan ways to effect change in the industry. The research themes of the SRA are around innovation, people (training, education and capacity), technologies and processes to deliver societal needs for now and the future.

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Planning for the future

One of the strategic research areas in NSC 11 is Transforming the building industry. What will this look like? Focus groups have shared their insights and ideas on how best to address issues facing the construction industry.

The construction industry plays a major role in New Zealand’s economy, remodelling, growing and enhancing our environment, as well as affecting the lives of current and future generations. Nevertheless, compared to other industries, the construction industry has long been criticised for its conservatism and lack of innovation.

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Decoding housing messages

In the 2017 election year, housing has been a hot-button issue with politicians, broader government and the public. What is it about these overarching themes of social justice and wellbeing that capture our attention? By looking at how politicians have defined New Zealand’s housing problems, particularly supply and affordability, researchers hope to better understand how diverse messages are translated into policy and practice.

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TRANS-disciplinary research through STS practice:
The co-creation of knowledge and collaboration

4S Conference - Sydney, Australia, August 29 – September 1, 2018

Science and Technology Studies (STS) has a key role in helping to create transdisciplinary research programmes that encourage collaboration and shared knowledge creation. Transdisciplinary research programmes are needed if we are to address the greatest challenges of our times, such as climate change. In attempting to understand the process of transdisciplinary research, we must first come to terms with different forms of knowledge. In the creation of transdisciplinary research programmes, such as the New Zealand Government’s National Science Challenges, what makes these collaborations effective, productive and satisfying programmes for all participants?

Call for abstracts: Closes 1 February 2018.

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Casimir MacGregor - NSCs: Encouraging new ways of social science?

Check out Dr MacGregor's latest blog on esocsci about the key role that social sciences play in the National Science Challenges.

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