Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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posted on 2023-07-20, 07:39 authored by McLean, Grace

“The quarter-acre dream is further out of reach than ever before” (Cann, 2021). Reports have shown that New Zealand at present has reached a point in the housing crisis where it is harder than ever to buy the “kiwi home” (Mclaughlan, 2020). As part of the historical and cultural context, New Zealanders, more so than in other countries, are less content with renting and long for home ownership (Bell, 2021). As the “kiwi home” has now become more unobtainable than ever, new home buyers need to change the idealistic housing mentality to find fulfillment in the housing market (Bell, 2021).

Every year in New Zealand, 33000 family homes become “Empty Nest”, as children leave and houses subsequently become underused (Mclaughlan, 2020). Empty Nesters remain in large family homes for nostalgia and the suburban sense of community, but are prone to becoming socially isolated, in houses too large to maintain and no longer suitable for their lifestyle.

The mental wellbeing of New Zealanders has been declining progressively, with “the proportion of New Zealanders with high levels of mental distress trending upwards over time” (“hpa”, 2019). In New Zealand, one in five people over the age of 15 experience some form of mental ill health in their life time. Connection is one of main drivers of wellbeing, however New Zealanders are have never felt more alone (Scoular, 2020).

Increasing after the Covid-19 pandemic, we now spend 62% of our waking lives at home (Yau, 2020). The role residential architecture has in improving our mental health has never been more vital (“hpa”,2019).

Using research for, about and through design, this thesis investigates the potential of collective in-fill architecture to improve suburban land and housing use and occupant wellbeing. Recently notified, Wellington Proposed District Plans have adjusted restrictions to promote intensifying suburbia (Wellington City Council, 2016). In this thesis, Co-fill aims to respond to council strategy and statistical goals by adding suburban density.

Targeted to downsize Empty Nesters as well as providing options for new home buyers, Co-fill aims to increase wellbeing through in-fill architecture that promotes connection. In the hope of fast tracking co-housing interest into actioned projects, Co-fill will be explored as zero- profit-on-cost developer driven projects. Research aims to illustrate how the 33,000 large family homes, which become underused each year by “Empty Nesters”, could free up and be subsequently bought and adapted for more suitable occupants (Mclaughlan, 2020).

To encourage connection and reduce spatial inequality and stress in the residential housing market, Co-fill hopes to increase suburban density to improve the way kiwis reside.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY-ND 4.0

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

130199 Arts not elsewhere classified

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

4 Experimental research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Southcombe, Mark