A bright new solution to Tauranga's city's chronic lack of bus shelters has been pitched.
Mark Wassung of Tauranga's Design Engine Architects has partnered with a South Africa-based client, Adriaan Retief of Black Lion, to design a 3D-printed concrete bus shelter.
The futuristic-looking, colourful structure was designed to be modular, relocatable and accessible to all.
It featured spaces for artworks and community notices as well as solar-panel-powered light-up signs, phone charge points, live bus updates and security cameras.
A larger version would include an attached unisex chemical toilet and hand basin.
"All the bus shelters you see are grey or green or black and grim, they're so depressing. So we have deliberately made this more uplifting and engaging," Wassung said.
He did not have a final cost for the shelters but said 3D-printing construction was "transformative technology" and overseas examples had shown it could be 50 to 70 per cent cheaper than traditional building methods, as well as being environmentally friendly, fast and efficient.
Wassung said he started working with Retief, a specialist in 3D printing construction, about two years ago on ways to use the technology to produce affordable housing in New Zealand.
They came up with the bus shelter idea as a smaller-scale way to get people interested in the technology and to meet a local need.
"About a year ago, I went to drop my kids off at school and there was this little old lady sitting on a bus bench up here in Maungatapu in the rain. It was a sad picture," Wassung said.
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He has pitched the 3D printing idea to Tauranga City Council, which is responsible for bus shelters, and to Bay of Plenty Regional Council, which runs the public transport network.
Frustration has been building in recent months about the city council's slow progress to install shelters after the rollout of a new network in December, 2018.
Among reasons for the delay, the city council has pointed to people not wanting shelters outside their homes as well as waiting for the new routes to settle in and for data from the new Bee Card ticketing system about where shelters were most needed.
The city council has committed extra funding to build up to 30 new shelters this financial year, rather than the 13 originally planned.
Wassung said he was talking to the councils about installing a prototype shelter on Cameron Rd, which is about to get a $45 million multi-modal transport overhaul.
The city council said it looked forward to seeing evidence supporting the functionality, cost, environmental and safety claims about the shelter and showing that it complied with all local standards and rules.
Wassung said he and his client were having the design for the small shelter finalised, certified and peer-reviewed.
If the councils were satisfied, the prototype would be printed and shipped to New Zealand.
If the idea took off, Retief proposed to bring the manufacturing operations to the Bay of Plenty.
Retief believed his product would be superior in quality and durability to a standard bus shelter, and could even survive an earthquake.
Andrew von Dadelszen, regional councillor and chairman of the Public Transport Committee, was enthusiastic about the shelter idea but said he wanted to see a business case with final costs before he could back a trial.
He said Tauranga needed about 400 bus shelters. The cost of a standard bus shelter was about $10,000.
Tauranga City councillor Heidi Hughes, a public transport advocate and user, was keen to see a prototype installed.
She hoped the welcoming and functional design would encourage more people to use public transport.