Medium-density housing doesn’t have to be ugly and cheaply built. Not if ATA (formerly known as Adam Taylor Architecture) have anything to do with it anyway.

Adam Taylor

There is no doubt that the urbanisation and intensification of Tauranga requires change. Now more than ever that train has a lot of momentum with many people embracing a more sustainable philosophy and lifestyle. Good news. The benefits of medium-density housing (MDH) are tangible as pointed out by ADNZ on – from economising the use of resources – land, energy, materials – to the cultivation of stronger and more social communities who enjoy shared recreational assets. Best of all, it offers living that does not discriminate, providing suitable homes for single people, families, extended families and retirees. Working with communities is critical to the success of a MDH project in terms of creating amenities that enhance their lives and that they genuinely want to share like parks, gardens, green spaces etc.

According to the Ministry for the Environment “Medium-density housing means comprehensive developments including four or more dwellings with an average density of less than 350 m2 per unit. It can include stand-alone dwellings, semi-detached (or duplex ) dwellings, terraced housing or apartments within a building of four storey’s or less. These can be located on either single or aggregated sites, or as part of larger master-planned developments”. In a nutshell MDH is characterised by compact living environments.

These MDH developments need to be both high quality and affordable. Herein lies the problem. So far these type of developments have been driven by margins and maximising the number of dwellings. Therefore, up to now they have typically been ugly (due to low/minimal investment in design) and built with the cheapest of materials ie crap quality and will need a lot of maintenance or completely replacing in a decade. In other words MDH could be changed to CDH – Cheap Disposable Housing. Ironic given MDH has strong sustainability principles at its core. We know that our population is growing older and more diverse. Households are getting smaller. The stand alone house on a large section in the suburbs does not meet everyone’s need for housing, support their preferred lifestyle, or their ability to maintain a property. It also has complete disregard to the reality of finite and vulnerable resources. Medium density housing offers a practical, more affordable alternative.

According to the Tauranga City Council when people live closer to one another, the possibility for lower amenity and nuisance can increase. Through careful planning and well-considered design, high quality housing and living environments can be achieved. Well designed medium density house types will have better privacy, security and amenity than traditional stand alone houses at higher densities such as infill. As medium density housing is complex, design specialists should be involved to achieve good outcomes.

ATA design for the environment and location. The overall design needs to reflect the scale and mixed uses of the nearby streets of a MDH project. It must have a vehicle and pedestrian route that responds to the surrounding street pattern and it needs to look and feel integrated with the existing urban character. There are many other intricacies of a MDH project especially when driven by sustainability principles. But hey if we went into them here we would have to kill you.