Property editor of the NZ Herald

Christchurch relief housing inspired by history

Jennian Homes' temporary houses have no bricks, no tiles and no concrete floorpads, unlike so many of the Christchurch houses damaged in the quakes. Photo / Supplied
Jennian Homes' temporary houses have no bricks, no tiles and no concrete floorpads, unlike so many of the Christchurch houses damaged in the quakes. Photo / Supplied

Houses like those built last century inspired Jennian Homes' new places for Christchurch.

"We've gone right back to the way our grandparents built," said Nigel Smith, managing director of Jennian Homes Mid Canterbury, of the places which the firm aims to build two of a day and up to 10 a week.

Last week, the Tauranga-headquartered business unveiled $85,000 two, three and four-bedroom models with the same footprint, accepted by the Department of Building and Housing (DBH) for Christchurch earthquake victims, and said the first place was up to show an 83sq m temporary family house.

But the designs drew criticism for lacking aesthetic or environmental attention.

Andy Watson of Christchurch, a architect graduate, criticised Jennian's designs, saying they offered no flair and little environmentally.

"It would be worth pursuing what criteria the DBH used to choose this design. It obviously has absolutely no design criteria and unfortunately Christchurch is going to be left with a bunch of very ugly, useless boxes in a couple of years time," said Watson, of MAP Architects.

"These should have been designed to appeal to a market after the temporary accommodation situation is satisfied. There is a lot of work going on at grassroots level in regards to quality design to a budget. It's a shame the DBH didn't take the opportunity to pursue something of quality, rather [than] opting for lowest common denominator home building solutions," Watson said, questioning why Jennian did not offer grey water recycling or solar energy aspects in their designs.

Other critics in the building industry compared Jennian's solution to temporary housing in Japan, where shipping containers were being adapted to create stylish two-level houses for tsunami victims.

Smith said many components of older homes were being used.

No bricks, gypsum wallboard or tiles are in sight. Gone too are the concrete floorpads, so popular but many cracked and ruined by earthquakes.

The cheap temporary Jennian roof is corrugated iron and the walls are wood to flex in the shudders.

Instead of vulnerable concrete floor slabs, these houses will perch on piles which will be driven into the ground, Smith said. The piles are rammed down, each blow settling foundations further to reach stability in various ground conditions.

Floor joists are then tied to piles with stainless steel fixings. This would give an extremely solid foundation to the houses, Smith said. Using above-ground piles enables the houses to withstand earth movements and to be shifted easily. The houses might need to be moved three or more times before they find their final spot.

The temporary houses will be plywood-clad on the exterior and interior. Plywood was used extensively to line interiors of Auckland's historic Birdcage, the tavern shifted up Franklin Rd to make way for the Victoria Park Tunnel.

The Jennian houses will be built off-site at a Harewood pre-nail yard, shifted to parks and properties and eventually sold.

Jennian says it usually builds these models as farm cottages or baches but they have all the facilities expected in a small house.

Carpet in bedrooms and the central living area will keep floors warm and double-glazed windows are mandatory. Underfloor, ceiling and wall insulation is part of the package and heat pumps will be installed.

Two Jennian Canterbury franchises are ready to begin building the kitset-style homes.

Smith said the houses could be put on the sections of quake-damaged places, so people could stay on their own land.

The department said sites such as Linwood Park, Rawhiti Domain and a site in Burwood would also be used.


Pre-quake houses:
* Tiled roof.
* Brick exterior wall cladding.
* Gypsum wallboard lining.
* Concrete floor slab foundation.


Jennian relocatable house:
* Corrugated iron roof.
* Ply exterior wall cladding.
* Ply interior wallboard lining.
* Rammed above-ground pile foundation.

- NZ Herald

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