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Design: the answer to affordability

A Melbourne architect's message for New Zealanders panicking about urban densification is - 'it's going to happen - so get involved'.

While still subject to appeal, last month the High Court cleared the way for high density housing in areas of Auckland, deeming the city's controversial Unitary Plan lawful.

The zoning changes provide for urban infill, which has allegedly brought some existing home owners to tears - a prospect akin to disaster.

'Well it will be a disaster unless people choose to engage with the problems,' says multiple award winning Melbourne architect Andrew Maynard.

'It's easy to "say no" to densification but that's ignoring urban sprawl and our growing population. If we ignore it, speculators are going to jump in there and we’ll miss our chance.'

Andrew is one of the architects behind Australia’s Nightingale housing model' designed to provide quality urban housing with high sustainability outcomes at an affordable price.

'Put it this way', says Andrew, 'Affordability is at an all-time low in Melbourne and Sydney with huge numbers of people unable to afford their own homes and that number is growing. It's not that they don’t have the money; they are simply priced out of the market.'

'So a group of us got together and decided: let's engage and turn what most people see as a threat, into an opportunity. This is a way to deal with affordability issues.'

Based on the German baugruppen (building group) model, Andrew describes Nightingale as design - led and one that 'cuts out the middle man, eliminating the fat'. Essentially an architect/designer oversees design and construction, funded by a group of a maximum of 25 owner/occupiers.

'It seems radical but none of this is new. This is medium density housing that leaves developers out. The economics are reorganised so it still returns a profit but this is capped and there is equal weighting given to sustainability and liveability. It's what we call a triple bottom line.'

The result is owner occupiers finding the answer to soaring city prices and the construction of beautiful buildings 'designed for humanity'.

There are three Nightingale projects underway in Australia - one under construction, one about to commence construction and another in its design phase. To date, 22 architects are licenced to undertake their own Nightingale Projects.

Andrew has so far been delighted at the level of enthusiasm from New Zealand designers, but the challenge he says, will be 'in redesigning the economics' and navigating red tape.

'There will be spreadsheets involved,' warns Andrew, 'unfortunately there's no way of getting around it,' he laughs.

Andrew Maynard is a guest speaker at ADNZ’s Medium Density Housing Summit being held April 5th-6th. For more information on the summit and to see who else is speaking visit