SHAC Challenge 2015 – Call for Entries

Submit your design and be in to win prizes valued at nearly $1000 each!
Submit your design for a Methven, New Zealand, community bus shelter for approx 10-20 snow skiers and boarders waiting for the mountain pick up.  The best designs using natural materials will win free entry to the March 2016 International Straw Building Conference to be held 3-9 March 2016, in Methven, New Zealand. See for conference details.
Natural Building means using minimally processed and locally available materials for building, examples include, untreated timber, rammed earth, adobe, earthen plasters, straw, hempcrete, and others. Natural Building also means using solar energy efficiently and effectively.
Submissions due: 2 November 2015, 5pm NZT
On one or two A3 sheets.
Please email your submission in pdf format (max 15MB) to

  • Either Skitime, Methven –
  • Or, next to Methven Resort and the High School –
    This site may have some high schoolers using the bus stop during term time.  This site may need to incorporate the Methven Resort sign as part of the bus stop.

Competition Objectives

  • Provide a playful competition to help designers, builders and the public better understand the art and science of building.
  • Promote design and build as a collaborative, evolutionary process
  • Promote the re-use of materials and the use of natural materials
  • Promote living well, with purpose, and with less reliance on money and resources
  • Promote creative responses that do not require a large budget

Judging Criteria

  • Use of natural materials
  • Innovation
  • Meeting competition objectives

Entry Requirements and Checklist

  • Register for your submission number here (
  • E-mail your submission to
  • Entries are individual or as a team of 2 people.
  • Due Date – 2 November 2015, 5pm NZT [NZ time]
  • Include a 150 word max description of the project in the body of the email
  • Name your submission ProjectName.pdf
  • The PDF A3 presentation sheets are what explain the project. This may include sketches, plans, elevations, sections, and/or photos of the materials or techniques to be used.
  • Entries not to include your names or logos, only your assigned submission number.
  • Submitted designs should be copyrighted by the author(s) under a Creative Commons license of your choice, suggested: “CC-Attribution” or “CC-Attribution-NonCommercial
  • SHAC reserves the right to not accept any entries.
  • Best entries will be honoured with awards and prizes.
  • All entries may be published by SHAC on our web site or other medium.

Notes from Users of the Site – These requirements are advisory, not mandatory

  • Shelter from Southerly
  • Strong enough to withstand Nor Wester winds and the rain that follows.
  • Rack or similar for skis/snowboards
  • Blend in with existing buildings
  • Not to block views to the mountains.
  • Incorporate elements from their alpine and agricultural encounter.
  • A location for timetables and information to be displayed

Download Poster (2MB)
SHAC Natural Building Competition 2015


If Everyone Lived in an ‘Ecovillage’, the Earth Would Still Be in Trouble

We must swiftly transition to systems of renewable energy, recognising that the feasibility and affordability of this transition will demand that we consume significantly less energy than we have become accustomed to in the developed nations. Less energy means less producing and consuming.

An ecological footprint analysis was undertaken of this community. It was discovered that even the committed efforts of this ecovillage still left the Findhorn community consuming resources and emitting waste far in excess of what could be sustained if everyone lived in this way. (Part of the problem is that the community tends to fly as often as the ordinary Westerner, increasing their otherwise small footprint.)

Source: If Everyone Lived in an ‘Ecovillage’, the Earth Would Still Be in Trouble

Canterbury MicroArchitecture

Tiny home a true mansion

Her previous construction experience was a bookcase, but that has not stopped Lily Duval from building her own miniature house.
The 27-year-old is two months into the build, and is on track to have most of the construction finished in another couple of months. She is building her house directly on a trailer on communal land in central Christchurch. At 5.5 metres long, 2.5m wide and 4.2m high, Duval’s house fits under the New Zealand Transport Authority’s definition of a light simple trailer.
It requires no building consent.
Her house will cost $30,000 all up, which includes $8000 for the heavy-duty trailer.
via Tiny home a true mansion – news – the-press |

Canterbury MicroArchitecture

Interest growing for tiny homes

Christchurch man Bevan Thomas built his own “tiny house” from scratch last year and had seen “hundreds” through it over the past few months.
He believed the tiny house movement was becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand as people looked for ways to live with less impact on the planet, or to avoid being “tied to a half a million dollar mortgage”.

“There’s been phenomenal interest in it. It’s surprising actually how well the concept is taking off.”
Thomas built his moveable house after returning to Christchurch to look after family and finding himself at a loose end.
via Interest growing for tiny homes |

Canterbury MicroArchitecture

Tiny home at a tiny price |

Stefan Cook is revelling in the fact his new home cost $438,000 less than the average Christchurch house price.
Cook has now finished building his 3.4-tonne home, complete with a mezzanine bedroom, living area, kitchen and bathroom. The house measures 8 metres by 2.45m and is 4.1m high.
It was built on top of a custom-built trailer so it could be moved and did not require a building consent.
Cook did not have experience in building but it took him only 12 weeks to get it to a ”liveable” standard.
The building cost $22,000 – an amount he would save within two-and-a-half years by not having to pay rent – and most of the materials were salvaged from demolition sites, which helped keep costs down.
via Tiny home at a tiny price |

Canterbury MicroArchitecture

Student thinks small to beat rental trap

Christchurch student fed up with high rental costs is building his own “cottage on wheels”.
Stefan Cook is constructing the 2.5 metre by 8m transportable house in a bid to beat the rising cost of student housing and survive the Government’s withdrawal of student allowances for those undertaking post-graduate study.
The 34-year-old geology student at the University of Canterbury said he had been paying up to $160 for a room in a Christchurch flat during the first two years of his bachelor’s degree and expected his $15,000 project would pay for itself within two years.
via Student thinks small to beat rental trap |


Dunedin: Test drive a Tesla roadster electric car

Range and Power – Tesla convoy comes to Dunedin
Otago Polytechnic this Sunday 11th Jan at noon.  0-100km in 4 seconds.tesla
See for other locations around New Zealand.
A new kind of kiwi road trip is amp’ing up, as four kiwi blokes: Steve, Jay, Carl and Nick travel from Cape Reinga to the Bluff in a convoy of sustainable prowess.
The group #leadingthecharge are highlighting the practical and sustainable benefits of using electric cars. To drive home their message they’re cruising the length of the country in New Zealand’s first Tesla Model S car, and its only Telsa Roadster. Va va vroom!
According to the group New Zealand is ideally situated to benefit from the uptake of electric cars. “After the dairy industry, the next biggest source of emissions is our vehicle fleet, and since over 70 per cent of our electrical power is from renewable sources, there’re even bigger emissions savings with an electric fleet here than overseas.”
On their way South the foursome are stopping in to charge up at Otago Polytechnic’s workSpace. “We’re delighted to support the initiative and vision of these four kiwi men,” said workSpace spokesperson, Veronica Stevenson and “given our work in the sustainability and tech transformation space, workSpace is the ideal place for a meet, greet and test drive.”
The goals of #leadingthecharge are three fold

  • Charging – We aim to encourage private and public entities to roll out charging infrastructure all through New Zealand.
  • Driving – We want people to get into Electric Vehicles. Test-drives, car sharing, renting, owning. We don’t care how you do it; we just want people in these cars.
  • Teaching – There are so many untruths circulating about EV (electric vehicle) technology. We want to share true, well-researched and transparent messages about EV and all the benefits of EV ownership for individuals and New Zealand as a whole

All members of the public are warmly invited to attend this unprecedented event. Bring a friend, or the whole family – it isn’t often an event comes along that appeals to car enthusiasts and greenies alike.
WHERE: workSpace – A Block, Otago Polytechnic (across the road and up the grassy bank from the hockey turf on Harbor Tce)
WHEN: 1130am Sunday the 11th January
Veronica Stevenson: Story Strategist at workSpace, 027 4483036
Tim Bishop
SHAC | The Sustainable Habitat Challenge
021 705 346


How traffic engineering standards can break our cities «

It would not be too factitious to suggest that many traffic engineering standards seem to presume that land is free. It’s as is if there are dutch pixies at the bottom of the garden who are manufacturing land from the sea.
One example of such a standard is the concept of the “design vehicle”, which I will focus on for the remainder of this post. Of course there are many other examples of traffic engineering standards, such as minimum parking requirements, which have been discussed before on this blog and that also have hugely negative consequences. The reason I want to focus on the “design vehicle” concept is because it does not receive much attention. And also because it has a fundamental impact on so many things.
For those who are not familiar with the “design vehicle” concept let me briefly explain. The “design vehicle” is a phrase that typically describes the largest, heaviest (per axle), and/or least maneuverable vehicle that is expected to use a particular part of the road network. Naturally, the physical footprint required to accommodate this design vehicle subsequently defines most aspects of the physical road geometry, such as turning radii and pavement design. For this reason, the shape of our road networks is very much defined by the design vehicle that is chosen.
You can read up on some of the design vehicle standards recommended by the NZTA here. The design vehicle for the standard street is typically some form of medium rigid truck, such as what is commonly used to move furniture. I’ve illustrated the physical dimensions of this vehicle below.

Read more at: How traffic engineering standards can break our cities «


Students win national design award for 10sqm building | Scoop News

Students win national design award for 10sqm building
The design brief was simple – create a breakout space that didn’t require consent and incorporated sustainability, and now four Otago Polytechnic Design students have won the national Sustainable Habitat Construction (SHAC) Pop-up Challenge for their design of an innovative and efficient ten square metre building.
Studio56 was conceived by third-year Design students, Dean Griffiths, Alice Perry, Nina Daniels and Charlotte McKirdy, and was developed to provide a unique learning and collaboration environment for both students and staff, within Otago Polytechnic’s Living Campus – a vibrant community garden and a sustainable model of urban agriculture.
via Students win national design award for 10sqm building | Scoop News.

Students win national design award for 10sqm building | Scoop News


Where do you start a sustainable house?

So, you know you want a sustainable (healthy, efficient, affordable and desirable) home, but where do you start? I’ve covered the fundamentals  of what makes a good energy efficient home, but these are details. What’s the big picture? Where do you start a sustainable house?


Before getting too specific about your plan, here are some questions I recommend being able to answer:

  • Why are you renovating/building/remodelling/looking for a new home?
  • What are you most dissatisfied with at the moment?
  • How many people are you building for?
  • How much time are all these people actually going to spend in your home each day, each week, each month…?
  • What do you want your weekends to look like?
  • Describe your ‘perfect day’. Who are you with? Where are you? What are you doing?
  • Does you perfect day involve any of the following:
    • Mowing the lawn
    • Fixing a fence
    • Painting a fence
    • Cleaning windows
    • Cleaning a pool
    • Walking a dog
    • Vacuuming
    • Cleaning three bathrooms
    • Painting the house
    • Cleaning the house
    • Going on adventures with your family
    • Oiling a deck
    • Blowing/sweeping leaves
    • Gardening
    • Relaxing by the pool
    • Working a second job
    • Being at the beach
    • Harvesting vegetables and fruit from your own garden
    • Watching someone else do any of the above

What’s all this got to do with the location and layout of your dream home? A lot. Creating a better, sustainable place to live is about lifestyle. This is where you need to start.

When Natalie and I moved to Auckland our criteria for a place to live included:

  1. Walking distance to a primary school with a good reputation
  2. Walking distance to a train station and a train commute of 30 minutes or less
  3. At least three bedrooms, ideally four (Xavier, our third child had just been born, and we wanted to the option of a home office)


The next big question is about budget. There are two big questions here:

  1. How much do you want to pay each month to own and operate a healthy, safe home?
  2. How much money do have to design, consent, building and finish your project?

They’re both related. The more you borrow, the more your monthly expenses are going to be. The more you invest on good design, insulation and solar power, the less your monthly running costs are going to be.

As painful, boring or frustrating as it might be, it’s worth spending some time here. Most of the designers I speak to say that a client’s true budget is one of the hardest things to pin down. Knowing exactly how much money you’re wanting to spend and being honest about this upfront will save time money and disappointment by avoiding uneasy scope changes when you do start talking to a designer.

Read more at the excellent “Where do you start a sustainable house?.”