Assessment tools for good practice 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 Research Levy and MBIE, 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 has developed tools to help developers, designers, government, and industry 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 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 will help to design dwellings and communities that meet local needs while also incorporating best practice sustainability and design.



The project commenced 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 was identified and incorporated into a framework against which a prototype tool will assess medium density practice.

Prototype tools to measure and/or guide practice were developed, and tested in case study neighbourhoods.

A reference advisory group advised and informed the project throughout.