Decisions are complex and highly individual

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At the outset of this research, a key hypothesis was that a straightforward decision making framework could be developed that would provide the ability to look objectively at a dwelling and make a decision as to whether it was worth upgrading the house or if it should be ‘retired’.

The project sought to develop a decision making framework based on technical (home quality and upgrade options), social (needs of homeowners/community), institutional (within the Tāmaki project) and economic (valuing different intervention options) criteria.

However, the complexity of the variables in the upgrade/retire decision made it impossible to develop such a simplified decision making framework.

Undoubtedly, a new house, built competently to the current Building Code, will outperform an existing house in relation to most indicators of home performance, such as health and comfort, warmth and resource use.  From there, a relatively crude cost/benefit could be worked through, with some additional layers of increasing the value of the land and property offset against the potential costs of house removal and re-build.  This type of analysis makes for a reasonable economic assessment but fundamentally misses the key social and, arguably,  ‘emotional’ components of ‘home’ and neighbourhood (community). 

Every one of the sample houses had a unique set of physical issues that required addressing.  These issues were varied enough that a unique plan had to be developed for each house, and, whilst some of the interventions were common to a number of houses, the approach taken,  even for something as straightforward as insulating a ceiling, would vary between houses.

In a similar way, every household interviewed for this project had a unique set of living circumstances, a unique family set up, a unique history, unique financial positions, and a unique emotional attachment to their dwelling and their community. Decisions relating to housing appear to be made more from a personal or family perspective than a house condition perspective, and extended family needs and changing household size were often prioritised over plans to improve individual housing situations.  In addition, legal ownership of the homes is often not simple, and may impact on the decisions which can be made by a household.

Once this rich layering of social, cultural, financial and emotional filters has been applied, the numbers of variables involved in developing a decision making framework for ‘retire vs upgrade’ would quickly make such a framework unwieldy and unworkable.

The research has,  instead, yielded an enquiry framework for asking questions and exploring options with homeowners, developers and the community at large.

Tamaki enquiry framework