WSP Opus and Anthem

28 September 2018 Chloe Brigden

This morning Ian Blair, WSP Opus Managing Director was joined by leaders in the housing and transport sectors to address New Zealand’s shifting gears towards urban developments.

Ian was joined by CEO of HLC, Chris Aiken and the Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Hon. Phil Twyford.

The two-hour session gave the three panellists a chance to address both national and global trends that will shape New Zealand’s growing catchment areas. New Zealand’s housing affordability led the agenda of the session, more importantly, how are our experts responding to it?

The three speeches were powered with statistics, case studies and trends. A question posed by all panellists, was what is ideal living in the 21st century?

Below are 9 takeaways from this morning’s event.

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Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Phil Twyford


1. We need to challenge New Zealand’s outdated models towards property design and ideal living. We have inherited models based on two-storey suburban living – plonked between motorways. This doesn’t cut it. The future of Auckland cannot afford this luxury, neither can the city. We need to update our infrastructure. From the way, we plan to the way we build and cost to accommodate for this.

2. One way we can improve our infrastructure is through a better-integrated transport service. A crucial insight towards urban development, that has been ignored for so long, is that transport has been the surge of shaping communities. Auckland needs to deliver a transport model that is reliable in the 21st century. We are seeing this with projects such as the Northern Bus Way, rail links, forecasted projects such as the Sky Path, plus utilising the power of walking and cycling through developed cycleways and public paths.

3. Affordability is the driver behind designing better homes. We need to ensure that there will be in place in Auckland for people who are starting in life. This means affordable property, accessible transport and employment opportunities.

Chris Aiken of HLC working on the Mangere project.

CEO of HLC, Chris Aiken


1. Chris started his presentation with, “It’s hard to know what to talk about with so much going on” referencing to the work that HLC are doing in the affordable housing sector. Hobsonville Point, one of Auckland’s largest developments, set to deliver 11,000 homes once completed. The inner-workings of the development went against what the market thought it couldn’t, shouldn’t and wouldn’t do – to ultimately provide more homes more quickly to growth areas, particularly Auckland.

2. Millennials are the biggest generation ever. Now, they make up 50% of the workplace. Between 2020-2025 millennials will be driving the change to how we live, work and move. We need to react to those changes now. This should ultimately shape how we are designing our buildings.

3. We should be utilising technologies such as Building Information and Modelling (BIM) to address the challenges of housing affordability and rate of completion. By doing this, planners and designers can drive production up and costs down through decentralizing infrastructure, creating a cloud-sourced workforce, producing offsite manufacturing and limiting waste through generated calculations and analysis.

Ian Blair HS Shots 2

Managing Director of WSP Opus, Ian Blair


1. By 2030 single-tenant households will account for more than a quarter of the US, Australia and New Zealand living standards. In recent research, WSP Opus found that only 30% of people know the names of 3 or more of their neighbours whilst 70% of apartment block tenants don’t know any of their neighbours. Researchers have found that lonely people are 50% more likely to die prematurely than people with a good social network. These are statistics that we need to keep in mind when designing our future-ready buildings, especially apartment buildings.

2. New Zealand has several billion dollars’ worths of coastal roading that will be inundated with sea-level rise. What will happen to the communities that these roads serve? We need to embrace the inevitable and design solutions earlier. In some parts of New Zealand, we are already having conversations about managed retreats-which is exactly what is sounds like – but in other places, we are still talking about repair and replace.

3. There is a big misconception that affordable housing will create areas of slums. At-large New Zealand needs to change its mindset on ‘ideal living’ – do we need a large garden if recreational needs are met by plentiful green spaces and facilities? If you’re close to a transport hub, do you need a two-car garage? Interestingly, research carried out by WSP in London found that there is a willing market for people to live above publicly owned buildings – 60% would happily live above a library and 44% above government administration buildings. What does this say about how our current preconceptions for city planning? And what opportunities could these bring?

The event, Anthem Sessions: Building Strong Affordable and Connected Communities was hosted by marketing and communication agency, Anthem and business space operator, Generator.

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