Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Learning To Live With A New Minimum

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posted on 2021-09-27, 23:35 authored by Webb, Sarah

Many of the issues that plague society are a consequence of the way we live and build. Preferences for large sections and spacious homes have led to a series of complications at both individual and communal levels, which can be resolved by adopting housing typologies that are responsive to modern issues and lifestyles. Wide spread low-density housing has formed sprawling suburbs, consuming most buildable land resources and increasing its value, culminating in significant affordability issues. This style of living constructs highly private individual residences, creating isolated communities by discouraging pedestrian activity and limiting opportunity for social interaction.

Internationally, smaller living environments have been successfully implemented for many decades to reduce the effect of urban sprawl and its ramifications, however this is yet to be realised in New Zealand at an impactful scale. Accommodating our living preferences in medium-high density environments presents a challenge that this research will explore. Although apartment typologies are a solution to density issues, they require residents to adapt to unfamiliar living circumstances, and have struggled to grow in popularity.

Smaller homes on compact sites have the potential to facilitate community and ease resource and affordability issues, whilst providing a strong connection to the external environment, an aspect that many New Zealander’s seek.

The research is tested on a site in Featherston, a small satellite town less than hour's train ride from Wellington. Intensification of satellite towns and city fringes is key to sustainably easing housing demands and generating supportive communities. The design tests the research at varying scales; how private buildings are designed, how the space between them is designed, and how the wider urban environment is designed to collectively achieve a desirable housing alternative that is responsive to New Zealand’s housing issues and preferences.

An understanding of accommodating functional and psychological needs of housing and the role of common facilities is at the forefront of this research, as it ensures the homes have the ability to be occupied long-term. This was investigated through precedents, design testing and background theory research over four design phases, which examine private spaces, public spaces, and the areas in between.

This research demonstrates that dense, small home communities can offer a more desirable housing alternative than traditional forms, and incidentally provide inherent solutions for New Zealand housing.


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)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Southcombe, Mark