BRANZ hosts last of the National Science Challenges

Following the launch of the challenge: Hon Steven Joyce, Minister of Science and Innovation (centre left), then from left, BRANZ CEO, Chelydra Percy, BRANZ Board members; Alan Bickers, Richard Merrifield and Kevin Stanley, BRANZ staff Richard Capie, BRANZ Challenge Director Ruth Berry, and BRANZ staff Lynda Amitrano. Photo: BRANZ.

The final National Science Challenge, Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities: He Kāinga Whakamana Tangata, Whakamana Taiao (BBHTC), launched by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce on Thursday 5 May is being hosted by BRANZ.

This is the first time an independent research organisation, rather than a university or Crown Research Institute, has led a National Science Challenge.

BRANZ CEO, Chelydra Percy acknowledges this is a milestone for the organisation, and will also help ensure the Challenge has a practical and applied focus.

“BRANZ is an organisation at the interface between science and the building and construction sector. We are passionate about lifting standards, challenging the status quo and driving the sector forward.

“Our reason for being is to translate good science to inspire the industry to provide better buildings for New Zealanders. Within the parameters of the BBHTC Challenge, this means building materials and methods, the regulatory environment, and design options must all be fit for purpose in a 21st century context,” Ms Percy said.

Chair of the BBHTC governance group, Professor Richard Bedford believes one of the most exciting aspects of this Challenge is that it goes much further than simply focusing on buildings. “The real challenge is to create environments in which all New Zealanders can live well and lead fulfilling lives. Together, the Challenge partners are taking a holistic perspective; exploring ideas, innovation and new technology; promoting new ways of thinking; and will ultimately propose solutions that provide all New Zealanders with a greater choice of living styles, nurture our sense of community and enable us all to live well,” Professor Bedford said.

The official Challenge partners, which include BRANZ, all eight New Zealand Universities, Crown Research Institutes GNS Science and Scion, Independent Research Organisations Opus Research and Centre for Research, Evaluation and Social Assessment; Prefab NZ; and Auckland Council are also collaborating directly with industry, iwi, local and central government, and communities.

Professor Bedford says this collaboration is essential to deliver robust evidence and improve endto-end industry and regulatory processes.

“The issues and opportunities facing New Zealand’s built environment are many and various. They range from demographic changes – Kiwis are living longer in an increasingly diverse society – through to the need to take greater account of sustainability, effective land use, the impacts of accelerating climate change and the vexing issue of housing affordability,” Professor Bedford said.

The solutions posed by the Challenge research will address design, build and regulatory improvements, as well as promoting new ways of thinking within our communities. “We need to get beyond the ‘not in my back yard’, knee-jerk response to changes such as increased housing density. Part of the Challenge mandate is to ensure people have choices – one size does not fit all. As our population grows and its composition changes, what we currently have is not meeting the needs of many New Zealanders,” Professor Bedford said.

Professor Bedford believes that the research that will be undertaken by the Challenge partners over the next 10 years will provide a legacy that shapes the future of New Zealand’s towns and cities for decades to come.

For all queries, please contact Ruth Berry, DDI: +64 4 238 1367, Mobile: +64 21 414 511

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Date posted: 5 May 2016