I like it


For those old enough to remember, the title of this column came from the 1963 hit by Gerry and the Pacemakers. I honestly don’t remember the song, but it must have been popular as it knocked the Beatles song From Me To You off the top of the pop charts.
So here is my top of the construction industry pop charts:

1 The NZIA
I seriously contemplated leaving the NZIA this year, but on quiet reflection realised that while my role might be small and becoming smaller, the NZIA is an important voice within the design and construction industry.
And the annual awards are an important way to recognise excellence and inform the public about the value of great design. We should all support our own professional and trade associations. They generally do a very good and basically thankless task to represent our best interests and the interests of our industry.

When I saw a recent challenge faced by the NZIA — the frankly mad-headed announcement by the Real Estate Agent’s disciplinary tribunal that it was okay to advertise a house as architect designed even if it wasn’t — I could only marvel at their self control.
The NZIA response and that from the Registered Architects Authority were considered and thoughtful. Obviously the Real Estate Institute is not on my happy list.

If you want to know how good BRANZ is just look across the ditch at the almost invisible Aussie equivalent CSIRO. Everyone seems to have a view on what BRANZ does and doesn’t do, but the organisation has to straddle the line between receiving financial support from the building levy and the need to maintain a commercial business model.
This commercial work helps ensure there is sufficient funding for its pro bono work supporting Standards committees and the like.

My own personal experience of BRANZ has been via the BRANZ chief executive’s involvement as an extremely supportive board member of the enterprise I still work for, and also through my work with a number of BRANZ staff on DBH and Standards committees.
The work BRANZ scientists do behind the scenes on, for example, preparing the myriad design tables in NZS 3604, is impressive, and deserves greater recognition.

3 Standards New Zealand
Self-funded, reliant on hand-outs from others, surviving in the construction sector through the freely given time and costs of industry members, Standards New Zealand still manages to do a great job.
Standards New Zealand is a critical part of our industry, and has provided support and guidance since its birth in 1930. It is somewhat poignant that Standards New Zealand was set up following the Napier earthquake, and is now working hard to support the rebuilding of Christchurch after the more recent tragic events.

4 The New Zealand Building Code
I’m serious. I may have criticised our performance-based but prescriptively driven (via acceptable solutions) code in the past, but it’s a lot better than most overseas examples.
New Zealand is usually very good at choosing the best bits from overseas and, in this case, only made one really bad step.
To paraphrase a recent government proposal on online consenting systems: Over time, councils and their BCAs have developed their own interpretations of the Act. The result is a high level of inconsistency between BCAs. So, not a criticism but a question: why not change the Act to stop this happening?

5 Frank Lloyd Wright
Okay, I know he is not only American but also deceased, but Frank managed to survive not one but numerous, leaky building crises with his reputation untarnished. Unfortunately his personal life was less edifying, including being run out of Chicago for being more than friends with a client’s wife.

However, many New Zealand designers and builders hold FLW in the highest regard, as much for his cheek — such as defying the Racine Council engineers when they wanted to reject his innovative mushroom-shaped column design for the Johnson Wax Building — as for his consummate design and building skills.
The eponymously titled DVD Frank Lloyd Wright should be compulsory viewing for all young designers and builders before they launch into the real world, to show that buildings are as much about the heart as the head. And why not?

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