“To offer a systematic, contemporary and strategic solution to the problem of affordable housing.”

– Nigel Young


“I think that fixing the housing crisis is one of the great tasks for our generation.”

– Hon. Phil Twyford
Minister for Housing

The Intent

To provide the means to achieve a specific goal – the building of 660,000+ affordable homes by 2048.

The mission statement

Building the Future

  • To tilt the balance ¹
  • To quantify the need
  • To shift the industry
  • To focus the strategy
  • To drive the relationships
  • To challenge the processes
  • To establish whakakāinga ²

The Metaphor

From the Air

This project uses an aerial metaphor rather than the more conventional ‘road map,’ as the view from the road is not sufficient in this situation. A goal of 30+ years and a ‘big picture’ perspective requires us to go up as well as forward in order to ascertain the size and requirements in order to build 660,000+ houses by 2048..

¹ “To tilt the balance in favour of the homebuyer.”
– Phil Twyford

² 1. (verb) to make a home, establish a home.


Is “Affordable” Affordable?

An Auckland-based Housing Consortium member and Community Housing Provider, defines affordability under the headings:

Social: Community housing organisations (CHO’s and HNZC)

◦ emergency housing
◦ fully supported rental

• Affordable: Community housing organisations (CHO’s and HNZC)

◦ assisted rental
◦ affordable assisted ownership

• Market: Private sector

◦ market affordable
◦ market rental
◦ full market

With these criteria in mind, affordable housing is currently defined as under $600,000.00 in Auckland and under $500,000.00 for the rest of the country. While this is realistic in terms of the market, it is unrealistic in terms of affordability, a tension that is at the heart of the issue.

the industry comparison

The Olympus Shift

In 1972, a lesser known Japanese camera manufacturer named Olympus launched a camera on to the market that sent the industry into a tailspin. Named the Olympus OM-1, it took all the development in 35mm camera technology from the previous twenty years and redesigned then in line with current and emerging systems. In the process, they made camera bodies smaller and lighter, while at the same time easier to use in large Western hands.

Prior to this, all other manufacturers had been shoe-horning every new development on to their existing camera chassis’, making them bigger and bulkier and increasingly awkward to use. Olympus continued to use all the standardised components developed within the industry – film canister size, tripod and cable release screw sizes, filter threads etc, so there were no incompatibility issues within the wider industry. Yet the camera was a game changer and forced a complete rethink throughout the industry.

The introduction of the Olympus OM-1 system was a watershed moment for its industry. And the contention of this thesis is that the New Zealand building industry needs an Olympus Shift. I call it Cobden.³

A Solution


The proposal of this thesis is that the turnkey approach gives the opportunity to re-evaluate our methods of construction, and offers the concept of the box truss as the method. This is a fundamentally new approach to residential construction, yet well within the scope of NZS 3604:2011 and the New Zealand Building Code. Nothing needs to be rewritten as such, yet everything changes. The is the Olympus Shift and centres on 7 core concepts:


  • The box truss
  • Commercial construction methods applied to residential housing
  • An extended-modular approach to cladding and insulation
  • Ease of location, relocation and re-levelling as required
  • The ability to go up as apartments, as well as singular on grade as required
  • The ease of prefabrication, as – like the Olympus OM-1 – it has the benefit of hindsight and the availability of contemporary methods and technologies
  • Ease of adaption or alteration as required, with no need to re-structure and therefore to re-consent.

³ 1. The rail bridge at Cobden that crosses the Grey River (Greymouth).

The numbers

A Pattern for Progress

Represented are:

• KiwiBuild
• 100k / 10
• Auckland’s needs
• Region’s needs

The Timeline

The Perspective

1. (noun) home, address, residence, village, settlement, habitation, habitat, dwelling.

Emergency Accommodation

By its very nature, emergency accommodation can be difficult to quantify. Disruptive events such as earthquakes, cyclones and flooding aside, the main driver of homelessness is economic, and as one social worker who specialised in assisting ‘those on the street’ told me – “we are each only ever 3 pay-packets away from homelessness ourselves.” Anecdotally, however, we are all aware of those whose home doesn’t come with a letterbox, an issue which compounds the problem as WINZ is unable to assist those without one. And without assistance, the financial impact is greater than just on the individual, with our communities also picking up the tab in any number of ways.

Emergency accommodation is a front-line temporary situation, intended to protect and re-establish those concerned into a dignity-restoring environment. But it is temporary, and usually very small. And while this can be defined as ‘cosy’, cosy can become claustrophobic very quickly. It is a short term solution but such accommodation must be a priority and seen as integral to the 16k / 2020 phase. Thus the need to move to medium term housing as soon as possible is crucial to any form of re-establishment for those concerned. Short term must only ever be seen in terms of weeks.

Interim Housing

There is a shift required for those who previously didn’t have a letterbox, one that must not impose the personal values and ideals of the housing provider onto the occupant. Homelessness is not all negative as we might suppose. A strong sense of community and support, along with an ‘us and them’ suspicion from the homeless toward the homed, must be appreciated, even if not approved by the provider. Thus the assumption that “they now have a home with a bed and key so they should be grateful” does more harm than good, as all too often the result is isolation and a sense of being stranded. This invariably results in the individual leaving their new ‘digs’ and going back to life on the street. This accommodation must also be seen as integral to the 16k / 2020 phase

Long Term Kāinga



That prefabrication is the only way in which the goals of 16k / 2020, 100k / 2028 and 660k+ / 2048 can be achieved, is a given. Such an approach allows for the opportunity to re-evaluate methods of construction, yet remain well within the scope of NZS 3604:2011 and the New Zealand Building Code. To this can be added procurement using the New Zealand Government Procurement and Property Branch that exists within MBIE. Bernard Hickey from Newsroom Pro writes:

“The Government has the borrowing capacity and the procurement scale to order such a pipeline of house building that might encourage many ‘factory’ home builders to create the scale needed to start lowering building costs and improving the building industry’s woeful productivity.”⁵

⁵ Hickey. “Why Auckland Can’t Build Enough Houses.”

The Conclusion



Despite much public derision, the Hon. Phil Twyford’s goal of 100k / 2028 is achievable, provided both the scale of the problem and the scale of the solution need to facilitate it, is recognised. And the best way to achieve that is to see it within the context of the 660k+ / 2048 goal as outlined.

The roles of the Housing Commission, the Affordable Housing Authority and KiwiBuild as outlined, offer the structure by which these goals can be attained. The wider arena of ROI, legislative requirements, infrastructure, prefabrication, procurement, finance and labour, along with emergency accommodation, interim housing and long-term kāinga have been addressed, and a timetable established. The opportunity of an export-driven revenue stream has also been mooted.

An aerial metaphor has been used throughout, and all it needs now is the political will to make it fly.

“ Form follows profit has become the aesthetic principle of our times.”


– Richard Rogers
  Lord Rogers of Riverside.

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Let’s Build Something

Nigel Young
Architectural Strategist


+64 29 777 2137

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