Homes and spaces for generations asks how homes and the spaces that work for people can be delivered for all communities and generations, now and into the future.

Research in this space is focused on how homes and neighbourhoods can work not only for the generations that currently use them but provide for future generations. Housing stock in many parts of Aotearoa New Zealand is not performing well in terms of quality of buildings, housing functionality over people’s life cycles, and housing costs in relation to incomes. The amenities, connectivity, accessibility, and security of neighbourhoods vary significantly. They are typically dominated by the private car, impose significant transport costs on low and moderate income households, and exclude those unable to drive or access car ownership.

Towns and cities continue to be predominantly low density and sprawl into greenfields, a tendency that exacerbates car dependency, loss of fertile soils and productive landscapes, and the costs and risks associated with infrastructure in environments vulnerable to adverse natural events. To date, intensified spaces and housing typologies have failed to deliver affordable, functional housing.

BBHTC research has explored a range of dynamics and determinants associated with those problems. It has highlighted that the shape of new-built homes and spaces reflect decisions and interactions between a range of financial actors, housing providers, the development, building and construction industries, and a web of regulatory and planning activities. The decisions of those actors do not necessarily reflect the needs of changing and diverse individuals, families, and households that use dwellings and neighbourhoods. Indeed, as homes become primarily treated as a vehicle for realising returns, use-values such as liveability, functionality, and reasonable entry and living costs become less pressing imperatives. The amenities and management of neighbourhoods also become shaped by, and shape, the real estate values of the dwellings located in them.

The burden of misalignments between people’s needs, available housing and the amenities of neighbourhoods falls disproportionately on Māori, Pacific communities, people with disabilities, children and older people. Evidence in Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas suggests that current dynamics reinforce housing classes and inequalities. They fuel concentrations of neglect, dereliction and under-provision in some neighbourhoods while, ironically, at the same time making them vulnerable to regentrification and displacement of vulnerable people and communities. At the core of this is a lack of affordable housing.

Affordable housing is functional housing that meets the needs of diverse households with low to moderate incomes at a price that enables them to meet other essential living costs, meet an acceptable standard of living, and promotes independent living and economic and social participation.


Improving the architecture of decision-making

Despite the resources, reviews, time and anxiety we in New Zealand expend saying we want affordable, functional homes, fit for purpose, financially sustainable infrastructure that meets the needs of local communities, built environments that facilitate individuals, households and families to thrive or a productive building sector – New Zealand keeps failing to deliver on that.

This major research area includes a number of research programmes around affordable housing and the actors and influences at work on affordability. The researchers look at Special Housing Areas, the impact of covenants, renting for older age groups, as well as many other decisions that impact on our homes, towns and cities.

Available Reports

December 2019: The housing crisis as an ideological artefact: Analysing how political discourse defines, diagnoses, and responds.

July 2018: Research Briefing: Revealing the impact of predictive models as decision support tools in environmental planning.

The Team

Kay Saville-Smith, Bev James, Fiona Cram, Philippa Howden-Chapman, Iain White, Karen Witten, Larry Murphy, Alice Chang Richards, Jennifer Joynt, Ralph Chapman

Next Generation Information: Geospatial data availability, quality, and needs

This research assesses the landscape of spatial data in New Zealand, that is which spatial data is available to stakeholders in the urban planning community and how fit-for-purpose the data is. Based on stakeholder engagement, it identifies key datasets stakeholders need in order to improve decision-making, assesses barriers and challenges for making key data more accessible and fit-for-purpose. The final outcome is a stakeholder-based purpose-specific assessment of data quality and recommendations for a data infrastructure framework in different urban settings in New Zealand.

The Team

Mirjam Schindler, Rita Dionisio, Simon Kingham

ESP finalist in Asia-Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards

A web-based urban planning tool, Envision Scenario Planner (ESP), developed by the researchers in the Next Generation Information for Better Outcomes research team is one of three finalists in the Asia-Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards (2018) in the Environment and Sustainability category.

The ESP tool allows local government and other key stakeholders to make informed decisions about the types of urban regeneration proposed. It allows planners and decision-makers to assess the impact that different urban designs, building typologies, and open spaces will have on a range of environmental and social outcomes, for example, carbon emissions, water management, jobs and social amenities created.


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Next Generation Information: Ecology of Community – Maori understandings and values in relation to spatial data

This research project has identified principles of socially-based (or communal) tenure, and investigated how Māori have incorporated these principles in urban papakāinga developments, and with what degree of success. A comparison has also been made with international cases of community housing to see whether similar principles have been used, and how well these are working, with the aim of considering how the wider New Zealand planning debate can facilitate more culturally-responsive and socially-focused housing. Outputs have included tenure principles and planning policy, disseminated via journal articles, conference presentations, and contributions at hui. The project has also reviewed whether legislation exists for Māori to realise their preferences without having to adapt or misapply existing cadastral legislation.

The Team

Lynette Carter, David Goodwin, James Berghan


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Next Generation Information: Crowd sourced and urban sensor data insights

In recent years, there have been several examples of research projects across the globe focusing on methodologically-sound, financially feasible and long-term usable ways of engaging citizens through crowdsourcing, as well as involving and engaging citizens in sustainable planning decisions about issues in their city or town. Examples of crowdsourced, citizen-centred projects for improving awareness, safety, and well-being in cities include: “crowd-mapping” efforts in Kenya (exposing Kenyan election killings through Usahidi Platform); Japan (revealing radioactivity levels after the Fukushima nuclear disaster through the Safecast Platform); the “OpenSense” project (an online real-time air pollution information system) and “da_sense”, collection and visualising map-based information about noise, pollution and traffic. This project will build on and extend work in this area within a New Zealand context, filling a gap in city-level open-governance by using crowdsourcing to inform decisions that will improve the well-being of citizens and the quality of their built environment.

The Team

Malcolm Campbell, Ben Adams, Ines de Falcao, David Garcia

Photo: Leah Kelley, Pexels.

Next Generation Information: Digital information infrastructure

This research will address the question: How can geospatial information be organised and supported effectively across New Zealand so it can aid building better homes, towns, and cities?

The usual approach to a lack of data and information has been to gather more data or identify alternate sources and add them in some way to existing databases. Both approaches tend to be resource intensive.

Can our digital information infrastructure be improved to get better value out of existing databases? In this project, digital information infrastructure refers loosely to the enabling network of background equipment, protocols, facilities, and services that support the production, management, and use of digital information. It includes the very local as well as global systems that facilitate sharing information.

The researchers will explore where can we prioritise action to enhance opportunities and reduce barriers faced by information practitioners; how a coherent information infrastructure can integrate data across existing silos of data sources and types; how we can create ‘rich’ geo-spatial information for decision-makers by integrating emerging technologies and community generated data with routinely collected data; and how digital engineering advances can be used to foster communities of practice focused on the information infrastructure for geospatial data.

The Team

Vivienne Ivory, Chris Bowie, Kai O’Donnell

Photo: Markus Spiske, Pexels.

Building solutions for affordable, functional housing in ageing and changing communities

This project seeks to identify and demonstrate building and design solutions that create affordable and functional housing for ageing communities to address the large demographic shift to an ageing population that New Zealand is experiencing.

The project has delivered concept designs that demontrate options for affordable, functional, and flexible rental housing for older people. The designs were intended to show whether it was possible to increase housing providers’ yield from shared rental accommodation at the same time as providing home-like dwellings that could be adaptable over time if needed. The design allowed for the adjoined buildings to be functionally separated at a later date if needed.

Modelling showed that the cost of land per resident in the concept design was significantly lower than two comparator sites when accounting for land prices in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. It also showed that the additional cost of land (above that required using the concept design) in the comparative examples added significant development costs for the housing provider. This analysis suggests that the concept designs, if implemented, could lower capital costs and increase yields for housing providers.

The Team

Anne Duncan, Kay Saville-Smith, Robyn Phipps, Bev James, Sally Blackwell

Auckland’s housing supply challenge: A Unitec response to the Mayoral Housing Taskforce Report

The Research team will supply Think Pieces on pre-defined topics as follows: 1. A response to the recommended “tactical intervention of the Mayoral Housing Taskforce Report; 2. + 3. Responses to one of the recommended “strategic interventions” of the above report; 4. Vision Matauranga – synergies between this project and ‘Kainga Tahi Kainga Rua’.

31 January 2019: Several new reports are now available from this research programme:

The Team

Roger Birchmore, Paola Trapani, Yusef Patel, Rau Hoskins



Revitalising the production of affordable homes to provide for successful, engaged and healthy lives

This research is designed to reinvigorate the investment in and production of affordable dwellings and restore to households and families access to homes which provide a secure platform for productive, engaged and healthy lives.

Researchers will focuses on two critical and strategic questions: What is the demand for and value embedded in a social investment in low-cost new builds? And, how can a building industry which has been engrossed with producing housing in the upper quartiles of value be re-oriented to delivering low-cost housing?

9 August 2018: Two publications are now available in this research area:

Following the money: Understanding the building industry’s exit from affordable housing production

Revitalising the production of lower value homes: Researching dynamics and outcomes

The Team

Kay Saville-Smith, Bev James, Fiona Cram, Larry Murphy, Michael Rehm, Andrew Sporle, Charles Waldegrave


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Producing affordable housing

This research will fill a crucial gap that presently exists in our knowledge about how we should go about providing quality, affordable homes. The impacts of this research could lead to transformational change in the domain of affordable housing policy. Because of the importance of healthy affordable housing to the development of strong, stable communities that are hospitable, productive and protective, this research addresses an issue that is fundamental to achieving both the vision and mission of the Challenge. In addition to its direct and timely policy relevance, the proposed research will strengthen connections between four of the Challenge SRAs, and will further develop collaborative relationships between researchers, policy makers, and housing providers. These impacts will enrich and diversify the housing research community locally, increasing our capacity for ground-breaking and innovative co-created research. Our proposed research has already received strong support from end-users across the country, and this proposal has been developed in collaboration with them. This collaborative approach will be employed throughout the research and reporting process to ensure ongoing alignment with the needs and aspirations of stakeholders. Finally, this research will contribute to the development of research leadership skills for an emerging researcher, thereby advancing the future capacity of local housing research.

The Team

Patricia Austin, Emma Fergusson, Lena Henry

Novel wastewater processing

The proposed research will deliver a think piece, describing some potential future states for wastewater infrastructure arising from increasingly available novel technologies. By consolidating leading-edge thinking, the work will provide a platform from which others (researchers, planners, regulators) can view the opportunities that arise in transition towards a circular economy and impacts on urban communities.

In posing a long-horizon vision, we do not make any assumptions about grand stepchange demands for our cities in the near, or even mid-term. Thus, a significant part of the exercise, will explore potential for movement toward the vision – what kind of changes might occur (or need to occur) in these shorter term horizons, and what are the societal impacts.

For example, we can imagine significant transformational change in small-scale treatment systems for black-water (toilet waste), where complete liquefication occurs on-site – delivering an aqueous phase into sewers. Immediate effects could be described in sewer demands, giving scope for small bore sewer pipes but in turn transforming the demands of centralised wastewater treatment systems. Resource recovery and energy neutrality may be given greater impetus as a result. Such an opportunity is certainly imaginable for a shorter term horizon, and can be seen as a step-towards the longer term vision.

A fully distributed circular economy within a longer time horizon will make redundant expensive end-of-pipe treatment plants. Recycle of nutrients and water locally would facilitate urban farms, enabling the growth of urban forests and food sources.

26 June 2018: See the “read more” link below for a blog article from Scion about the work of the waste water team.

The Team

Daniel Gapes, Doug Gaunt, Paul Bennett, Paola Leardini

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Urban narrative

The urban environment has profound effects on people lives, yet those people often have little ability to influence that environment, either because public participation is limited to ‘consultation’ – feedback rather than ideation – or people find the process alienating. As a two-phase work programme, ‘Urban Narrative’ offers the potential to transform urban governance and decision-making to a model that encourages and values public participation. By supporting participation, ‘Urban Narrative’ re-positions cities as ‘listening organisations’ that create authentic conversations and two-way relationships that gather, and act upon, local knowledge, ideas and aspirations.

Outcomes will include:

  • Methodology and tools to co-create urban design briefs that specify infrastructure development and better supports how people want to live.
  • More empowered, socially connected communities, where people are working collaboratively with their local government to hear their voices; community members can see their influence on their neighbourhood.
  • More liveable suburbs, towns and cities for all ages, sizes, abilities, and ethnicities that mitigate challenges and build upon assets.

Available Reports

28 May 2018: Building Research Capacity in Communities: Community Workshop Feedback Report #1.

25 June 2019: Data Collection, Data Analytics, Data Visualisations and Data Storytelling.

20 December 2019: Framework for soft and hard city infrastructures.

14 October 2020: Urban Narrative: Computational linguistic interpretation of large format public participation for urban infrastructure.

14 October 2020: The city of digital social innovators.

The Team

Mark Dyer, Annika Hinze, Shaoqun Wu, Tomás García Ferrari, Kate Mackness, Rachel Dyer, Vivienne Ivory


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Consenting automation

Nextspace has previously produced a proof of concept for Auckland Council showcasing its latest data linking toolset (working title: Bruce). Nextspace is now seeking to build on the success of this PoC and has identified automated consent processing as one suitable problem/solution fit for Bruce as well as being a good product/market fit. Nextspace are of the opinion that the convergence of critical need (pressure on consent timeframes and spotlight on the costs of compliance) and availability of relevant technology suggest the time is right to create automated consenting.

Nextspace has set out a three-stage process towards full e-consenting and identified the relevant partners required to advance the project. The project builds on the work already completed for the PoC referred to above.

Effective e-consenting has a number of significant benefits for stakeholders (public, consent authorities, consultants etc.) over current processes, notably:

  • The smart design and LoD that is created at the architectural/design stage can be captured in detail as part of the consent processing – resulting in much improved quality data for the consenting authority – rather than being lost in the process as currently occurs
  • Less time and fewer mistakes, with consenting staff able to focus on value add over manual checking
  • By deconstructing the data through the process using Bruce, the consenting authority creates genuinely meaningful packets of data that can be deployed in a range of situations by the authority. Being beholden to complex CAD or GIS environments becomes unnecessary and staff are able to create simple fit for purpose UIs to get the job done. Training times are reduced to hours, not weeks.

Ultimately consents can be processed faster, more accurately, and more effectively, and at the same time the consenting authority is provided with deconstructed data for use throughout its organisation.

Available Reports

20 February 2020: Computerising the New Zealand Building Code for automated compliance audit.

20 August 2020: Qualitative and traceable calculations for Building Codes.

The Team

Johannes Dimyadi, Robert Amor, Mark Thomas, Alex Gnum, Justin Marsh, Guido Governatori

Transdisciplinary resilience assessment

Previous work by the authors has identified a need to create a common framework across the many disciplines involved in resilience research to create an effective, integrated approach to assessing resilience and avoiding the creation of silos. This project will enable the creation of an integrated, multidisciplinary method for assessing the future resilience of urban developments by bringing together physical and social scientists with economists to address the different spatial and temporal scales, languages, concepts and world views inherent in urban systems research.

Available Reports

14 May 2020: Towards a framework for resilience assessments: Working across cultures, disciplines and scales in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

The Team

Guy Coulson, Jonathan Moores, Karen Witten, Robin Kearns, Chris Batstone, Anaru Waa