Innovative housing complex designed for Wellington


Thirty top architecture, engineering and construction management students, one brief and just three days to design a Wellington-centric housing complex for all generations

These were the ingredients for this week’s ArchEngBuild 2018 Challenge held at Victoria University of Wellington and the result was some truly future-thinking medium-density housing designs for the capital city.

Now in its seventh year, ArchEngBuild brings together final year architecture design, engineering and construction students from all over the country to work collaboratively on a simulated client brief.

The Challenge provides students with a real-life workplace scenario and, in most cases, will be the first time they have worked with another discipline. Each team of three is supported by industry mentors.

This year’s challenge was to design a multi-generational Medium Density Housing (MDH) community complex. MDH will be key to finding solutions to the current housing shortage and, despite cohabitation with extended family being on the rise, there are few purpose-built options.

The winning team Monica Varrie (Unitec – Construction Manager), Liam Crawford (AUT – Architectural Engineer) and Georgia Peacocke (Victoria University of Wellington – Architect) created the stunning and innovative Tupu – an adaptable living community.

Tupu uses a modular concept that can be duplicated for consistency of materials and installation yet is adaptable to cater to the needs of different size and shape households over time.

The primary aim of the design is to provide an affordable housing alternative that is cost effective to run, maintain and build so the end user can maximise their rental/purchase dollar.

Simon Novak, Director, Novak + Middleton Architects,  said on behalf of the judges, “We need clever smarts, so we can build more economically and do better things for the urban environment.

“We also need to be more sustainable and efficient in what we do.

“You can’t achieve a great outcome – a brilliant building – without working in collaboration.”

This design showed fresh blue-sky thinking, Novak adds.

“It was really refreshing and we hope some of this thinking can put out in the marketplace.”

ArchEngBuild was originally an idea of Concrete New Zealand (CNZ) and is now supported by the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ).

“The main aim of the Challenge is to inspire a better built environment through cross-discipline teamwork,” BRANZ CEO Chelydra Percy says.

“The best projects happen when there is true collaboration and mutual respect between engineers, architects and builders.

“Students in ArchEngBuild go away with a deeper understanding of the roles and intricacies of each other’s disciplines.

“These future industry leaders also gain valuable contacts across our industry and we hope they seek a career that involves working in cross-sector teams.

This ultimately benefits everyone living in our communities,” Percy says.


This year’s event was supported by:


– BRANZ, through the Building Research Levy

– Concrete New Zealand (CNZ)

– Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association of NZ (WPMA)


– New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA)

– New Zealand Institute of Building (NZIOB)

– Engineering New Zealand (ENZ)


– Simon Novak, Novak + Middleton Architects

– Andrew King, Hawkins Construction

– Judi Spaak, NZCEL Consulting Engineers


– Guy Marriage, Victoria University of Wellington

– Enrique Del Rey Castillo, University of Auckland

– Chris Speed, Dunning Thornton