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Housing Trends to Watch for 2016

Written By Matthew Cutler-Welsh from Home Style Green


A new year has arrived and so to have new trends in the building industry. Now is a better time than ever to calculate what’s new and what’s changing. Will house building trends see homes get bigger or smaller? Smarter and greener? I took a chance and threw my hat into the ring with some predictions and calculations of my own.

Building activity

In the month of November 2015, Statistics New Zealand reported a new record with building consents processed reaching $1.6 billion. For all of 2015, the total number of building consents was up 9% from the previous year. With nearly 20,000 houses in the consent stage, the building industry is set to be very busy in 2016.

For existing and prospective homeowners, labour costs are likely to remain high - particularly for well established, good quality tradespeople. Ultimately, I will assume that this high demand will breed innovation within the industry.

Prefabrication

New Zealand could benefit from wider adoption of prefabrication in the building industry during 2016. The liquidation of eHomes in 2015 was a setback in achieving large scale factory production of homes, common in the US and Europe, but similar companies are positioning in the market for the obvious benefits of prefabrication. I’ll be keeping my eye on Concision, BDK and Matrix Homes, to name but a few.

Rental WoF

After a pilot project a couple of years ago, the team at He Kainga Oranga Housing and Health Research Programme will be continuing their Warrant of Fitness research in Wellington and Dunedin this year. Minimum standards for rental properties are long overdue. There will be continued opposition from some property owners and investor groups, but strides will be taken in this space during 2016. 

3D printing

3D printing is making waves in the design and fabrication of small parts, toys and models. Second generation consumer-scales printers are now available for under $3,000, which are great for experimenting any manner of projects.

There have been a few demonstration projects where 3D printing has been used to ‘print’ a regular sized house. Just imagine, you could download a design, set up a large robotic arm with a nozzle and squirt your building material (typically some type of cement) and hit ‘print’. A short time later, you would have the walls of your house.

This won’t be taking off in a suburb near you any time soon, but it’s an interesting concept.

A more likely application for 3D printing in the building industry this year would be for architects to produce a nice little plastic 3D model of your home at the design stage. If you would like something changed, your architect could adjust it in their CAD software and reprint another draft model.

Solar Batteries

Better feed in tariffs (the amount that electricity companies pay for any power you generate) are still struggling to gain popularity with the current government /electrical companies (no surprises there). The good news, installing solar makes economic sense. The even better news, theTesla Powerwall will be available to New Zealand in 2016.

Cost effective, grid-tied batteries are a game-changer for New Zealand. By the end of 2016, there could be at least two other options available, with more providers offering solar lease options to offset the upfront cost.

Homestar

Homestar is New Zealand’s environmental rating tool for homes. Thousands of new homes in Auckland have a consent requirement to achieve a Homestar rating of 6 stars. This will increase the awareness of the rating tool and encourage some developers to assess their homes even if they are building outside of Special Housing Areas.

Wide scale adoption of Homestar across the country will no be happening in 2016, but you will see logo and ratings pop up frequently on building site billboards and real estate marketing campaigns.

Smart Homes

2016 will not be the year in which we start communicating with our toasters, rice cookers and refrigerators with our smart phones. In fact, this may not happen at all.

The integration of smart appliances in our homes will only happen to the extent to which the communication and control offers a solution to a real problem, or if it enhances entertainment. Commentators at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas have questioned the need for everything to have an IP address; however smart devices do offer some promise of better control, energy efficiency, comfort and security.

Home security is one example where connectedness can solve a problem, or alleviate a concern. Services like the Spark backed Morepork are a great example where good technology offers a lower barrier to entry for a feature rich security system.

Remote control of heating appliances, light fittings and power outlets via apps is increasingly possible. The biggest challenge is compatibility. Without a dominant system where everything works together, things may be a little clunky for awhile yet.

Challenges and Opportunities

Home building will be dominated in 2016 by demand for housing in Auckland. This could have ripple effects on real estate in nearby regions but the supply pressure on building materials and labour will be felt further afield still.

Supplying more homes in an increasingly complex and connected environment could provide more opportunities for innovation.

As consumers and homeowners, we should embrace the opportunity to change the direction of the building industry.  We should have the power to demand healthy homes with higher quality for ourselves, our families and the greater population.

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