Built to last

30 September 2011
Transforming Auckland
Transforming Auckland

Turn on the tap and water comes out. If that doesn’t happen, no activity in a city can be sustained. So how does our water get to taps and how long can we take it for granted?

This would usually be a topic for engineering and science students but a new, multi-disciplinary research project at The University of Auckland is calling on planners, architects, dancers and the education faculty to help understand the city’s water issues.

The Transforming Auckland project is taking a practical and theoretical approach to the sustainability of water as well as transport, solar power, housing and green spaces and topics like leadership and support for our ethnic communities.

“We’re working with research groups across the University in new ways to support the region-wide Auckland Council as well as community initiatives,” says Professor Jenny Dixon, Dean of the National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries which is hosting Transforming Auckland. “At the same time we’re contributing to national and international research on sustainability.”

For water to continue to flow from taps people need to understand and value the resource and that comes down to public awareness. Architecture and planning students are mapping water around the city while science students focus on geomorphology and microbiology. Their work will become part of a series of urban installations.

Meanwhile post-graduate dance students are interviewing community members about water. Their ideas and experiences will be turned into public dance performances early next year.

“Almost everybody has something to say about water and we want to try to unearth people’s connections and understandings, stories and imaginations,” says project leader Dr Charlotte Sunde.

As well as collaborating across the University, the Transforming Auckland project has linked up with the Auckland Council to study sustainable urban growth.

Higher-density housing with good public transport links is a key strategy to encourage sustainable development and avoid sprawling suburbs, but overseas experience shows people aren’t keen on high-density living.

With that in mind, Errol Haarhoff, who is Professor of Architecture and co-ordinator of the Urban Design programme, is leading a project funded by Auckland Council to assess three transit-orientated housing developments located near public transport routes in Onehunga, Albany and Waitakere.

“Council wants to understand the experiences of people in these developments,” says Regan Solomon, team leader Built Environment in the Council’s Research Investigations and Monitoring Department.
Errol’s research team aims to find out what lessons can be learnt from these developments to help shape
Auckland’s future growth strategy. It is predicted that Auckland will need more than 170,000 new households by 2026 and affordable, good quality housing is a key to attracting a good migrant workforce. “We’ve got to deliver housing fit for purpose and to avoid further urban sprawl much of this will be at a higher density,” says Errol.

“We live in uncertain times both economically and environmentally,” concludes Jenny Dixon,” and a lot of the work we are doing with Transforming Auckland is about being prepared for the future.”