Green homes in ‘airspace’ proposed to address housing, climate problems

Building an apartment block on stilts over a public car park in central Nelson would help provide affordable homes, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help add “buzz” to the city, proponents say.

Unveiling a plan for 56 “eco” apartments above the open-air council car park in Buxton Square, city councillor Matt Lawrey said the model could help more people live in city centres across New Zealand – reducing the number of people having to drive in to work, and helping keeping cities alive.

The four-storey block would have trees and shrubs planted on its balconies and roof, with only timber columns, lifts, stairs, a toilet block and bike storage touching the ground.

Lawrey approached local architectural designer Pierre Hammond and landscape architect Ursula Bowman to create the design, after being “inspired” by urban regeneration developments in Europe.


Nelson City councillor, Matt Lawrey, (centre) architectural designer Pierre Hammond and landscape architect Ursula Bowman in Buxton Square in Nelson, where they propose building eco-apartments above the council-owned car park to help create more affordable homes and a “green corridor” in the city centre.


Hammond said the building’s main structure would be made from locally-grown pine, creating a much smaller carbon footprint than concrete and steel.

The one, two or three bedroom units would be built in a grid, allowing for the units to be made bigger or smaller once the block was constructed, reducing the need to build more homes when demand changed, Hammond said.

“Standardised” materials would be used, making the building more cost-effective and faster to build, with much of it able to be built offsite and craned in, minimising disruption, he said.

Bowman said plantings around the apartment block would soften the existing square, helping establish a “green corridor” through the city, tying in with the aim of the city’s spatial plan to create a pedestrian link across the CBD.

Sustainable features like rain gardens (where water flowed in and was treated there, rather than going straight into drains and the sea) would make the square a pleasant place to be, she said.

Hammond said flood modelling showed the square was at the “high point” of the coastal and riverside city, and not prone to flooding from sea level rise in the next 100 years.

He said 6000 people came into central Nelson to work, but only 50 people lived there.

Lawrey said the city missed the buzz, activity and spend that came with having people living in it all the time.

While it was a challenge to build a unit in town for less than $1 million, costs would drop if developers didn’t have to buy the land but could lease it from council – benefiting prospective buyers and renters, and creating a potential revenue stream for council, he said.


Buxton Square in central Nelson, where it is proposed an apartment block be built over the footprint of the car park. ANDY MACDONALD/STUFF


“If we get more people living in town, then it’s going to be good for businesses, because there will be customers walking around all the time, it’s going to be good for the life of the city, because there will be more happening, and it will be good for the economy.

“Cities are facing a challenge because of the way things are changing with retail, with people working from home. We need to get smarter about how we stimulate our city centres.”

The plan kept the existing car park because people “got concerned about parking” whenever change was proposed in the central city, Lawrey said.

The design allowed for the parking spaces to be changed to retail space if demand for parking fell.


This high-rise apartment building in the Italian city of Milan, named Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest), is planted with around 20,000 trees, shrubs, climbers and perennials, which soak up about 30 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. BOERI STUDIO


While the apartments were aimed at people wishing to live without a car, a car share service could be included.

New Zealand car share company, Mevo, said projects like this were “more viable than ever”.

Tens of thousands of people in Wellington, Auckland and Hamilton accessed Mevo’s vehicles instead of private vehicles, and the company was looking to expand into regional cities, CEO Erik Zydervelt said.

“We need more projects such as this that are big, bold and sometimes even a little scary if we want our homes in New Zealand cities to be truly world-leading.


Eco-apartments that can be scaled up or down in size are being proposed for Buxton carpark in central Nelson, in what proponents say could be a blue print for inner city living across New Zealand. PIERRE HAMMOND/SUPPLIED


“The best cities in the world work hard to ensure people can live, work and play in their centres. This delivers the best outcomes for their environment, people and economies.”

Lawrey hoped the design would “open people’s minds to what might be possible”.

He, Hammond and Bowman intended to pitch the idea to Nelson City Council in the coming weeks.



Source Stuff

April 4, 2022