Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities: Ko Ngā Wā Kāinga Hei Whakamāhorahora (BBHTC), hosted by BRANZ, is one of 11 National Science Challenges funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE).
The mission of BBHTC is based on manaaki tangata – supporting and caring for the people. Through co-created, innovative research (rangahau), BBHTC is helping transform dwellings and places where people live into homes and communities that are hospitable, productive and protective. The vision of the Challenge is to create built environments that build communities – creating homes, neighbourhoods, towns and cities that enrich people’s lives, allowing them to reach their social, cultural and economic potential.
This is an ambitious mission and vision as it requires lots of changes to the way things have been done in the past. Also, there are increasingly urgent factors in New Zealand’s society that must be adapted to, such as an ageing population that must be cared for, the needs of future generations, climate change and increasing inequality.
Since BBHTC launched in May 2016, it has funded more than 100 research projects – from scientists across both public and private institutions – into New Zealand’s built environment. The Challenge is developing knowledge, technology and tools that will empower the public, planners and policy makers with fresh thinking and evidence to help make better decisions. The Challenge is discovering new pathways to address the long-standing housing challenges of our most disadvantaged.
The built environment
The built environment we live in can profoundly affect our wellbeing – as individuals, as families, as communities, as regions and even as a nation. Our built environments are shaped by a variety of influences, including demographic, market, economic, cultural and bio-physical trends driven out of local, regional, national and global dynamics.
There are also many people and influences directly involved in our built environments: decision makers, policy and regulatory players, resource holders and technologies. These influences are often dynamic and changing. The success or failure of homes and built environments impacts differentially across our life cycle as we move from our infancy through childhood, youth, middle age and old age. What suited us when were young might no longer be suitable when we are old.
Our built environments and the materials and designs from which they are built also have their own life cycles. Building materials eventually fail, some quicker than others, and designs can become impractical or even just go out of style as better designs are developed.
Regional populations and their economies ebb and flow. Some communities and populations are exposed to, or more vulnerable to, the impacts of poor housing and built environments than others. Inequality and exclusion are all played out in our built environments, the housing stock and its distribution.
Because of all these factors, the scope of research supported by BBHTC is wide and complex, from imagining a future with autonomous vehicles in our urban communities to the ways and means by which we involve and empower relevant communities in the design of their own built environments, whether through virtual reality previews of designs or through co-designing public spaces with young members of our society.
BBHTC is supporting multidisciplinary research into best practices to help our most vulnerable overcome homelessness, novel and best practices for dealing with our wastewater, water-sensitive urban designs, ways to focus the building industry on building more affordable homes, smart villages and smart designs to care for and house our elderly and kaumātua, research into how regional towns and cities have successfully revived their built environments and economies as a primer for others and many more.
The 2011 Connected article More than a box can help with learning about structures and building.
Check out the Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities website for more information.
See the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment 2023 report, Are we building harder, hotter cities? The vital importance of urban green spaces, presents data on how public and private green space in Auckland, Hamilton and Greater Wellington has evolved over the decades.
This article has been developed from content provided by the Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science Challenge.