Students help with housing for the elderly

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Wendy Zheng and Juno Huang spent their evenings working together to produce a new model of pensioner accommodation for a small registered charitable trust in Opotiki. The undergraduate students were delighted when their plans were chosen from dozens of submissions to be built by the Trust.

Established in 1979, the Rangimarie Trust was set up with the aim to provide quality low-cost rental homes for elderly people on small fixed incomes in their local area.

The Trust currently owns a block of land with a dozen units which were financed by making and selling patchwork quilts, running market stalls and raffles. It had recently purchased more land for development.

The Trustees approached senior lecturer Bill McKay from the University of Auckland for assistance with design ideas to help fulfil their specific needs. This included access ramps, solar heating, raised floors to prevent flooding, wider doors to accommodate wheelchair users, and a maximum budget of $90,000 per unit.

Mr McKay sent the Trust’s brief to his architecture students to see what they could create. Wendy and Juno’s designs proved to be exactly what the Trust had been looking for.

The students came up with plans for a small cluster of houses, each with private living spaces, but an overall village feel, to accommodate single elderly people.

“It was gratifying to see young undergraduates come up with such a good design. Apart from nailing the requirements of the brief they also produced a design sensitive to the church next door that will add to the townscape values of Opotiki by creating a nice little community precinct,” Mr McKay says.

Wendy and Juno, who are both originally from China, were surprised and delighted that their designs will be built.

They are both third-year undergraduate architecture students who hope to go on and complete postgraduate studies with the aim of becoming registered architects someday. They are looking forward to visiting Opotiki to see the finished homes.

The Rangimarie Trust is now looking for funding — in the form of grants or low interest loans — to help achieve the next stage of the project.

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