Having worked in some intriguing locations—including Mongolia— Irish-born Julie Hannon shares her Supercity hopes and discuses the global trend of sustainable building design.
Who the heck are you?
I'm a director of Arhaus Drafting Ltd which is part of the Arhaus Business Network. We focus on sustainable residential design.
I'm originally from Ireland but have been living here for about six years. I’m in my final year of a BA in Architecture at Unitec but I've been working in architecture for almost 10 years. I’ve done stints in Ireland, Australia and Mongolia of all places!
Mongolia sounds intriguing. Do tell...
I went to Mongolia over 10 years ago now. I was working as a volunteer labourer, building a straw bale medical centre. It was an amazing experience. Learning about the construction process and working alongside Mongolians gave a great insight into the local culture.
How do architecture practices vary between your homeland and here?
The budgets for building are a factor. They are definitely higher in Ireland and Australia than here. But I guess that Ireland has been inhabited longer so there are naturally more historic and adaptive reuse projects.
There is also a difference in materials used for construction. Solid materials such as stone and brick are used a lot in Ireland whereas it tends to be timber and corrugated iron creating 'elegant sheds' in New Zealand.
Design is influenced by global trends, the most important of which, right now, is sustainability. In Ireland, it’s pushed at a government level, but here, it’s at a more local and public level. That’s a worry, and I wonder how high a priority it is in a National government.
What's new at Arhaus?
A modular House Design called 'Box Living' which is a hybrid of custom architectural design and prefabrication. The idea being that it reduces construction time and therefore cost, while still providing a quality architectural design to pass tomorrow's rigorous building codes.
You're based in Auckland now. What would you say are the city’s residential successes and woes?
In Auckland, there are some great projects going on, mostly on a small or individual housing scale. Earthsong is a really interesting development. I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing more of this kind of scheme in the future.
I got a big shock when I came here; it may be cold in Ireland but it's usually nice and warm in our homes! However, I think when the NZ Green Building Council brings in their Residential Rating Tool, there will be a bigger push in improved comfort and performance of homes.
What hopes, wants and needs for the Supercity, have you?
I think the focus in Auckland is going to change from greening new buildings to greening existing buildings. I can see things like green roofs and other eco-schemes like car-sharing becoming the norm.
I'd really like to see Auckland become a more compact city with better public transport. I'd also love to see half of Queen Street pedestrianised—some life breathed into the city centre!