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Safer and better building and housing design

Media Statement 26 May 2003

Safer and better building and housing design the focus of new research

The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology is to fund a number of innovative research projects that should lead to safer and more healthy homes and buildings and will include a special new option for Maori housing. As part of its review of its research investments in what it calls 'Built Environment' which includes design of buildings and other elements of infrastructure, the Foundation will fund nine research proposals totalling $4.8million annually. Most of the contracts run for up to five years.

A key project to be funded involves research that will help address issues that caused the recent leaky building problem. The Building Research Association of New Zealand is to collaborate with research organisations in the United States and Germany to prevent a similar problem arising in the future. It will investigate ways of managing moisture in walls and provide a technology platform for developing new building products and systems. This project will take six years with the initial research looking at the physical processes that take water into walls and later researchers will turn their attention to finding better building materials. In the short term it's hoped to quickly gather data on flashings and drainage planes. Other separate research initiatives funded from outside the Foundation will further support this programme.

The University of Canterbury has been funded to investigate and develop a completely new modular, seismically damage resistant building system constructed from high performance concrete materials. As part of this research project it is hoped to develop energy efficient structural concrete panels that are manufactured as precast concrete and can be dismantled and reused in a modular fashion. In addition to creating a new set of products the research will return New Zealand to the forefront of expertise in seismic resistant design and will provide for more economical and energy efficient forms of design. This programme will cost just over $3million spread over six years.

The Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand (WRONZ) will look at ways of addressing problems with allergens found in house dust such as mites, fungi and bacteria which is one of the primary causes of asthma. The researchers will also look at dealing with problems of gaseous air pollutants such as VOC's, formaldehyde and the flammability of interior products. The researchers hope to come up with recommendations on maintenance procedures and the development of innovative products to combat these problems.

Finally the Foundation is funding a study by the University of Auckland into housing options for Maori based on their specific needs such as cultural appropriateness,, accessibility, economic advantage and environmental suitability. The 2001 census showed that Maori were disadvantaged in terms of housing when compared to the general population. The aim of this research project is to find solutions in the form of low cost, high quality housing. The research will be made available in the first instance to the owners of multiple-owned Maori land who wish to develop Papakainga (community housing) on Maori land. The research programme will cost $1.1million over five years.

The Chief Executive of the Foundation Gowan Pickering says the investment to be made in the research area of Built Environment is both timely and very important to all New Zealanders. He says quality buildings and housing are fundamental to society and he says the various research initiatives in this area will improve the wealth and wellbeing of all New Zealanders.


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