“New Zealand Architecture” or Overpriced Sheds?


Our readers know that New Zealand homes, infamous for being ‘leaky’ cold and damp, are basically overpriced, poorly constructed sheds.

Then again, most of our readers come from first world countries where homes are built to last for 80 years plus and are designed and constructed to be able to withstand adverse weather conditions.

It’s relatively easy to spot a pup. Isn’t it? But do New Zealanders know how crushingly awful and substandard their homes are?

The stimulus for this question is the New Zealand Herald is questioning whether New Zealand Architecture is a thing or not:

Do we have a distinctive style of New Zealand architecture yet? A house we can point to, recognise the style and say ‘oh, that’s so New Zealand’ and claim it for our own? Say smugly, ‘well, there’s nothing like that anywhere else in the world, is there’? source


Typical architecture in New Zealand

For an answer to that see the paragraphs above. Here’s what some of the good people of Reddit New Zealand think.

oddstuff: (I’m in the trade) It’s all the same boring shit. Lots of glass, nowhere to hang a painting, tiny rooms and no storage. Oh – and no insulation either. And all built from shitty overpriced materials “designed for New Zealand conditions”. It’s rare to see good design or to see long lasting materials.

Both of these (showcased on the front page of their website) are abysmal. http://www.lonsdalearch.co.nz/lyttelton-home.html and http://www.lonsdalearch.co.nz/kaikoura-home.html

These guys do more interesting work (by NZ standards) but it’s still pretty boring and so very copied from overseas. Bland. Boring and not innovative in any way. For example: http://www.warrenandmahoney.com/en/portfolio/house-of-light-christchurch/

notalannister: Yes – houses that can be well-insulated should be the most important design criteria. I’m in Canada and it’s -15 but the whole house is centrally heated to 20 degrees and with massive insulation done so the heatings not going all the time.

oddstuff: Thanks for your comments. And I bet it’s not costing you a fortune to keep your home at a comfortable temperature.

oddstuff: We live in a cold climate and we build houses to a standard about on par with 1950’s USA. We use technologies and methodology that is no longer used in the USA and we’re so far behind Europe it’s not even remotely funny. Our building code allows the construction of barely insulated homes. We think double glazing is the bees knees and we pay a premium for outdated, crap products.

We could be building homes suited to our climate, that cost as little as 1W per sq.m to heat or cool. Instead, we pay a fortune to run our heatpumps or sit under 15 blankets.

For the few trying to build better, the building code makes life quite difficult because, should you import a triple glazed window unit from Europe, that requires no flashings to install, then you have to prove to the idiots at your local council that the window and it’s installation will comply with part E2 of the building code – a code written for 1930’s to 60’s construction technology.

On top of that, design is mostly 1950’s/60’s moderne. Or, volume builder rehashed ’70s shit. A bedroom wardrobe is a little double door’d “room” with a shelf and a rail if you’re lucky. (Even in those houses you linked to) One even had a pivot front door. How lovely and ’70’s.

And, if it could not be worse, we have the reality that the building code requires a house’s structure to last for only 50 years, and it’s claddings (roof and wall claddings) to last only 15. For this, we pay in most cases 50% more for the equivalent building size than almost anyone else in the world.

Not everyone of course. There are a few architects and designers that don’t agree with this bull and are actually providing clients with good design and modern technology. And, often, the imported technology is cheaper than the local crud.

Fatesjester: The first light house by first light architecture. That destroys your bullshit comment about sustainability and it’s wholly New Zealand architecture.

Oddstuff: The First light house is not bad, but it also cost $4500/sq.m. And the internal layout sucked.

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16 thoughts on ““New Zealand Architecture” or Overpriced Sheds?

  1. My sister worked as a rental agent,I accompanied her to look at a property on a lifestyle block in West Auckland ,it was basically a shed full of mildew in a field with no landscaping around ,the field needed drainage ,the place was about a meter high up on foundation piles and had a set of double doors leading out to where a deck should have been,$350 per week ,I questioned her as to whether it was legal to rent out a place like this and she replied that they rent much worse.Despite this I would hesitate to suggest a standard should be introduced as no doubt this would increase rent even further and allow the government to further medle in everyone’s affairs,the sad fact is that there’s a housing shortage and people will pay a premium for a substandard place to live ,until the material supply monopolies are removed nothing will change ,building materials in N.Z are insanely expensive ,even paint which would cost $60 for 5 gallons in the U.S will cost $300 here .

    • Below is today’s E-mail sent to one of our government ministers. TO NON RICH MIGRANTS – BE VERY AWARE !!

      A few months ago we received your reply regarding rental properties in NZ. This reply included an E-mail from the Minister for Building and Housing.

      The above photos are just a small example of what we are experiencing in over 14 years of renting different properties in North Shore. The current problem is unresolved now for over seven years. The Body Corporate that is managing our property, as well as other 18 properties in the same road, that are fully or partially leaking, are not answering our calls, or TXT messages. The Auckland Council said to us that this properties (majority of which are investments), were never reported as leaking ? The agency that is managing it, is doing regular six months inspections, with photographs taken, but clearly not interested in remedying it.

      We are an exemplary (unfortunate, due to cost of buying) renters. Never missed any of our obligations, keeping the place extra clean, keeping black mould at bay at our own cost, to try and minimize the risk of getting sick, regularly reporting, and photographing leaks, doing free small repairs on our own etc, etc…

      If an exemplary renters are treated like this, I can not imagine what (if any) respect is given to other renters in the country.

      Prior to migrating to NZ, I have been living in other world countries. Some on the undeveloped list. Never seen anything like this.

      As people of influence, you should urge the government to introduce a total rental law review. This can be described as NZ societal cancer.

  2. I’ve moved into rentals where door handles have literally come off the doors from a few days use, the window latches have fallen apart (due to the rotting wood which has been like that for years) and I was then unable to lock the window. I’ve had the front sliding door handle break and the entire door came loose as well, so i was unable to even open it and get out safely without using extreme ,am power to FORCE it open. Really handy if theres another earthquake. It’s absolutely ridiculous, its like something out of a comedy movie, the only difference is that I don’t see the funny side at all.

    It causes stress and several phone calls to unhelpful, inconsiderate, resentful, nazi con artist landlords/real estate agents who will immediately blame YOU for the damage. A little scam they love to stab people with time and time again. Had the government/council enforced a mandatory moving in/moving out CHECKLIST to protect both the landlord and tenant, all this shit could be avoided. But as you can guess, its all DELIBERATE and pre-meditated.

    • I have been a good landlord who has had to deal with bad tenants.

      If older properties are in need of some repair, this is usually reflected in the price of rent. Scum landlords are sometimes renting poor homes, but the rent is cheap, and it is usually a reciprocated agreement for both parties.
      Its like buying a cheap shirt then complaining it doesn’t last. You agreed to buy a low quality item and should expect it not to be the same quality as a more expensive item.

      Landlord bashing is like racism.

      • One good decent landlord like yourself Garance doesn’t take away the fact that there are predominantly dodgy, rip off, con artist landlords and real estate agents in NZ renting out dives which outnumber the good landlords and real estate companies. Simple as that.

        Price isn’t reflective at all. You can pay $400 plus a week for a shithole because you basically have no choice and thats all you can afford. You move into said property, and 3 days later the heat pump breaks down, something thats been rotting which you were unaware off falls apart and you get the blame. Etc etc it is endless.

        I find that very offensive as well. If I pay $400 a week for a rental and not $500 for a ‘better’ one, does that mean I should be subjected to poor treatment and just ‘suck it up’ when the front fucking door comes apart through no fault of my own in the first week?

        ‘Landlord bashing is like racism’-ok yeh, so lets not ever let people know how many shithouse landlords and real estate agents there are in New Zealand, ripping off unsuspecting people, because you just happen to be a good landlord? (I.e a huge rarity).

        I’m sure you have had to deal with bad tenants, hell theres even a tv programme about it on NZ telly called Renters i think. Like i said before, if the dickheads implemented a mandatory legal checklist for both parties to sign, it would make life much easier should the shit hit the fan.

        Garance mate, you’re going to have to face the facts-90% of rentals in New Zealand are utter shitholes that charge extortionate prices. If you are a good landlord like you say then you are in the minority.

        To be fair, its estate agents I’ve had the most trouble with. I’ve only had one private landlord when I first came to NZ, and altho he never gave me any problems or harassed me, he also didn’t do fuck all about the rats in the attic and mice problem in the house. Things fell apart and he never did anything about it, and I had to report him. He then got off his ass and dipped into his pocket to fix the things which were his responsibility.

        I bought some nice second hand 3 peice furniture for in my living room, and despite my best efforts to lay mice traps out, the little bastards managed piss and crap all over the furniture and I had to move out because it was a serious health risk to my son and I. Did the landlord care? Did he fuck.

        • I completely agree with Nebula’s post. Renting in NZ is an utter nightmare. Rent is extremely expensive and a very high proportion of salary/wages goes on very poor quality housing. Landlords always think that they are the exception. There are a lot of exceptions in NZ.

          • Thanks GafaJafa.

            I still find Garance’s comment of ‘Landlord bashing is like racism’ utterly ridiculous. That translates to “stop offending me with facts’.

      • There should be minimum rental housing standards introduced. You should not be allowed to put any house for rent, no matter how “cheap” if not suitable for human habitation, full stop. Landlords should ask themselves the question: ” Will I be able to live in this property ? “

  3. Whats even worse is when you go on Trademe and look for a place to rent at a rip off price, the lazy pathetic bastards haven’t even bothered to clean the place. Munted walls with wallpaper hanging off, revolting shitty floors, bathrooms that look like a body had been dissolving in it and not been cleaned. Decor and everything resembling something from the 70s/80’s. Nothing has been updated or fixed in a very long time, just left to remain archaic and ugly as fuck forever.

    Houses for sale at around $250,000 for a Robinson Crusoe shack, the entire outside wood rotting away.

    Several of these houses in desperate need of a paint job, why couldn’t the lazy fucking pricks paint the outside before listing it?

    New Zealand is a joke.

    The house from the movie Home Alone was sold for no more than 2 million US:


    Now go on trademe and look at houses similar which cost 5 times as much and are built like cardboard….

    In New Zealand, you pay out your ass for SHIT.

  4. The problem is building supply companies, builders and councils all profit from substandard housing reworks and repairs.
    Power and gas suppliers put pressure on to maintain high consumption and profits. Its all a scam to screw the home owner.
    Which is crazy, as the councils actively limit supply of new housing areas, and shoot themselves [plus builders and materials suppliers] in the foot regarding profits from new build opportunities.

    If they made decent homes and more of them, everyone would be win-win.

    • It’s also the lacklustre, lazy, ignorant attitude of Kiwis in general. A Kiwi will only pretend to ‘care’ about something if you pay them. Otherwise theres no incentive for them.

      Still makes me laugh how they charge $500,000 upwards for a shithole with no insulation. You’d be better off in a tent.

  5. Feng Shui principles should prevail, but they dont. Hence the ugly urban landscape.
    BUT, the saving grace is many trees in areas like Central Auckland, and birdsong a plenty.

    I ride my bicycle through Parnell and Remuera a fair bit, and many areas actually look great, IN PLACES. I went down some new streets in Mount Eden today, and there were some lovely majestic villas.
    Of course they are single glazed, very cold and difficult to heat, with very high maintenance costs.

  6. There is a total lack of urban design. Noticed that on day one upon arrival here. All looked so bland, and boring.
    This is something that should inspire when visiting foreign nations. Many of Auckland suburbs are depressing to look at, even when driving through. You just want to close your eyes.
    Recently saw a new development above Long Bay Marine Park. Honestly, I wanted to cry ! What a waste of potential. It was all done to grab as much money as possible, without any concern for the surrounding environment. No design features at all. Such a pity.

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