Leaky homes are distressing.
With MBIE receiving nearly 13,000 claims to August this year, the rot isn’t expected to stop, with estimates of over 110,000 homes affected at a cost of $30 billion. To put that in perspective, Christchurch’s earthquake cost $20 billion.
For anyone who has been at the sharp end of fixing a leaky home, the financial and emotional stress can feel insurmountable. Imagine water leaking through your roof and mould growing on your walls. You’ve spent the last twenty years paying down your mortgage and then someone hands you a $200k repair bill.
Faced with uninhabitable homes that have lost half their value and entangled in wrangles with the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services and other residents to agree the best way forward, the future can feel bleak. As architects, we can’t take away the stress but we can help.
Designing in value at the same time as a technical solution means owners recoup more worth. The issue with remediation focused solely on fixing up technical weathertightness is that you aren’t adding value to compensate for the loss. It is a lose: lose. You have to pay for the remediation only to end up with exactly the same property.
We want to achieve a lose: win. You lose in the short term paying for the remediation but you win in the long term adding value through a designed solution. The new building should be a much better version than the one it replaced, and your home worth more.
We help owners use the problem as an opportunity to update dated and bad design.
The Weathertight Home Resolution Services (WHRS) often recommends targeted solutions that address the point of leakage; not the potential leaks across the building. As a result, WHRS repair estimates are usually significantly below what’s required. They are often based on repairing like-with-like. The ‘like’ is the same plaster cladding that still gives off the stigma of being a leaky building, and doesn’t address the risk of repeat failure.
Once we start peeling back building layers, its uncovers multiple other problems. Fire compliance is often non existent. Often the poor design, construction and workmanship that led to the leaks is systemic throughout the building. Decay from damp affects the structure, which means the cost to properly remediate a building is always more than the WHRS estimate. We've even found buildings with beams missing from the original drawings!
Taking a targeted repairs approach means you usually have to do the repairs at least twice. While a whole building approach will inevitably be more expensive than a targeted approach at first sight, it is the only way to go to recoup value long term.
We advocate to fix-once, fix-right. Its not easy. But when people do, they see values increase, confidence that the apartments won’t fail again, and the visual stigma of leaky gone. Doing it right means the end result is more enjoyable to live in. Better thermal performance makes them easier to heat and cool and power bills go down. Noise transfer between neighbours is reduced and fire safety compliance is brought up to standard.
Context has the building science know-how to fix leaky buildings, and anticipate and resolve what else might lurk beneath the surface. We have the skill to ensure the integrity of the solution is carried through on site.
If you would like support dealing with leaky buildings, call us for a conversation.