Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (243.17 MB)

Framework for Refurbishment - Enhancing Social Spaces, Thermal Comfort and Seismic Performance in the Refurbishment of Modernist Social Housing.

Download (243.17 MB)
posted on 2021-09-29, 20:20 authored by Sarah Pells

Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) has a stock of social housing developments built between 1940-1980, requiring substantial refurbishment to meet current thermal comfort and seismic performance requirements. Additionally, these developments often lack social spaces that are inadequate to changing societal circumstances. Consequently, there is a desire to demolish rather than refurbish. The situation will be exacerbated by the new Healthy Homes Standards (Tenancy Services, 2020) to be introduced 1st July 2023. The new standard will require social housing providers to ensure dwellings can be heated to a minimum of 18°C. There are exemplar social housing refurbishments in NZ, but there is a lack of systematic assessment to inform and increase uptake of refurbishment as a development option.

This research proposes a systematic framework for the refurbishment of modernist social housing developments in NZ, whereby enhancement of social space, thermal comfort and seismic performance are combined. This framework will facilitate application of maximum building performance and liveability standards, which can be generated with minimal intervention.

The research comprises six stages: a literature review, a case study analysis (refurbished and non-refurbished social housing projects) leading to a comparative matrix, a design assessment tool, testing of the design tool in a non-refurbished project (Arlington Flats). The literature is analysed to determine the quality and importance of social spaces, thermal comfort, and seismic performance in social housing, as well as best practice design principles to enhance them. Five refurbished social housing case studies (international and NZ) are evaluated, to determine what design strategies led to their success. In addition, six non-refurbished case study projects are analysed to form a comparative matrix to synthesise common topics and problems. Aspects analysed range from urban and dwelling typology, social spaces and structure to construction and building envelope details. The matrix captures areas of similarities and weaknesses and establishes areas of focus to enhance social space, thermal comfort, and seismic performance to be achieved most efficiently. Based on the findings, a design tool is established. The tool is a set of best practice design principles and strategies, represented in a table for designers and stakeholders to use. The tool demonstrates how to best achieve enhancement of social space, thermal comfort, and seismic performance within each identified area of focus. The design tool is utilised to inform design decision making in one of the analysed non-refurbished case studies, namely Arlington Flats. A detailed design is generated for Arlington’s George Porter Tower using the design assessment tool.

The research can inform decisions around refurbishment of existing social housing. An increase in the uptake and quality of refurbishments, will contribute to preserving built heritage, increase resident’s health and safety, and reduce resource and energy footprints of housing in NZ.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Centre of Building Performance Research

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Wilhelm, Hans-Christian