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Wellington City Council Social Housing Upgrade

The Wellington City Council required, as part of their social housing renewal programme, the complete upgrade of the 104 studio flats over four buildings built in 1963 into 73 modern apartments to serve a wider cross-section of the community, including families, for the next years. The apartments now cater for a mix of families, couples and single tenants in 30, 45, 60 and 90m² studio, one, two and four bedroom apartments close to Kilbirnie’s excellent community facilities. The increase of the apartments to the ground floor was key to the Client. Planning allowed for x4 double bedrooms and x2 bathrooms within the 90m² footprint, minimal openings to the concrete shear walls with discrete structural solutions


WSP Opus provided Architecture, Structures and MEP services to the project.
The project had a very tight budget for a substantial upgrade project to create a modern, well insulated and heated housing. The challenge was to maintain the best of the existing buildings components (internal doors, kitchenettes) and use creative cost-effective design solutions to enable all the client and community benefits required by the brief and the local Kilbirnie community.

WSP Opus worked very closely with the client through our collaborative and multidisciplinary approach. This provided a robust design solution that enabled the re-distribution of the demographics within the existing building and re-design of the spaces between the buildings to create a safer family-friendly environment within the community. The arrangement of two and four bedroom units to the ground floors has been designed to encourage families to live in the apartment blocks and to provide the tenants direct access to the newly landscaped site by providing additional access from the living room areas onto private courtyards. Existing components have been salvaged and reused where possible throughout the existing buildings and integrated with new to follow with the WCC policy.


The Client has received a modern low maintenance facility with a diverse population group focused on families who would care for and look after their new homes. The new facility is also safer with reduced anti-social behaviour due to crime prevention through environmental design implemented (CPTED) during the design throughout the site. The project was also a test case for a BRANZ research study on the internal environment and has seen the heating input required to the units exceed BRANZS expectations and allows the tenants to maintain low electricity costs.

The community benefited from having modern rental housing for lower incomes groups within the local area that is affordable and efficient to maintain and run. The community also benefited from a newly landscaped site that encouraged the use of outdoor recreation areas, including community gardens, to promote resident interaction and building a stronger supportive community who respect each other and care for each other to foster a feeling of community and support. The upgrade project has brought the public realm to life and provides a much-needed community amenity space for the residents that includes landscaped gardens with shared fruit trees and allotment vegetable gardens, a new purpose-built community centre and a new communal BBQ area. The apartments now connect to the landscaped areas and promote interaction of tenants through social and CPTED passive surveillance principles.