Developing tools to guide medium density

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Medium density housing is a rapidly growing typology, particularly in the larger metropolitan areas in New Zealand where it (and higher density housing) is estimated to account for as much as 60% of consents by dwelling unit. While higher density development is seen as an answer to supply and affordability issues, it is often poorly understood and resisted by the community.  At the same time, there is a lack of local tools to guide good development of medium density in the New Zealand context.

This project, funded by the Building Levy, asks “How is the success of medium density housing measured at both individual development and neighbourhood levels?“.

Two further questions arise:

  1. What evaluation method is best suited for New Zealand to assess, measure and target best practice in medium density communities?
  2. What overseas tools are relevant to New Zealand, and what should be developed or adapted here?

Exemplars of best practice suggest there is considerable potential to improve design, sustainability and functionality of medium density housing. This research will develop a prototype tool (or tools) that can provide developers, designers, government, and industry with feedback that assists them to plan, design, and build future developments which are liveable, adaptable, sustainable, and healthy for residents, as well as being acceptable to surrounding neighbours


Addressing community and resident aspects of medium density

The tools need to assess not just the quality of design but also its outcomes, in terms of functionality, sustainability,  liveability, and also opportunities to contribute to community development.  Beacon’s research suggests that there is a gap in current tools and assessments of medium density:  the voice of the individual, as a potential resident or existing community member, is largely absent.

Given more work needs to be done to make medium density housing more acceptable to potential residents and local neighbourhoods, incorporating a resident or people centred approach may help to design dwellings and communities that meet local needs while also incorporating best practice sustainability and design.   The framework will specifically assess community and neighbourhood aspects in medium density settings.


How we’re going about it

The project commences with a review of key national and international literature relating to medium density housing and assessment tools, and an assessment of the types of medium density tools and guidance available in New Zealand and overseas.

From these a set of core principles and outcomes of good practice is being identified to build a framework against which a prototype tool will assess medium density practice.

These principles and outcomes will be tested with a reference advisory group which will advise and inform the project throughout. 

The next step is to develop a framework incorporating principles and outcomes, and then prototype tool(s) which measure and/or guide practice.