Te Whare Āhuru Ki Ruapehu researchers graduate with awards and honours
As part of Ruapehu Whānau Transformation’s (RWT) Te Whare Āhuru Ki Ruapehu the research team at the University of Canterbury Mechanical Engineering Department have graduated with flying colours while working on our project. To find out more, here is the pānui from the University of Canterbury Mechanical Engineering Department:
Last year as part of the final year programme, they completed cutting-edge research and development projects, sponsored by some of New Zealand’s most interesting companies. One of our team’s with Ryland Martin of Taupo and Daniel Bishop of Christchurch had a very unique engineering project. Their client was the community of people in the Ruapehu District and in particular, the Ngāti Rangi Iwi. Electricity has become particularly expensive in Ohākune because of huge winter demand peaks when skiers come for the weekend. A spike from 2 MW up to over 10 MW of demand is extremely difficult for the network operator to supply and thus becomes a costly problem. The housing stock in the area is mostly old and uninsulated, and causing health issues. The limited availability of year-round employment also causes financial pressure on many families.
From left: Graduates Ryland Martin, Lap Kei Leung and Daniel Bishop
The team took on the challenge of discovering a transition for the local problems of energy and affordable housing. Their solution was to gather all the data and model the possibility of growth of a local industry to fell, craft and build solid log homes in a new Maori-respectful style. The team found that sufficient Radiata Pine is available to the Iwi, skilled builders and carpentry training are available, and that the work could be both permanent and dovetailed with other seasonal work. A design for a house called Te Whare Ahuru was developed through meetings with stakeholders including the council building officers and discussions with many Iwi members. The team researched international standards and used modern building engineering modelling tools to determine that 300 mm diameter logs would meet the current NZ standard for insulation value, and would provide added benefits of thermal mass and moisture regulation. They researched and modeled the seismic performance of the saddle cut log design, finding that these kinds of structures are among the most earthquake safe homes possible.
The team estimated that with local labor, the cost of a new house could be around $150,000 and building 10 houses per year would generate 3 permanent jobs in the community. A demonstration version of the Te Whare Ahuru is currently being built by Natural Log Homes of Geraldine, and will be tested by University of Canterbury for thermal and energy performance. The on-going research project will help to develop a New Zealand wide standard for the home design, construction and materials which will substantially lower building costs.
The project was awarded the top prize for sustainability in design by the Engineers for Responsibility.