Last week I wrote about the first home I ever owned: an elegantly simple farmhouse built in 1782. The style of the house is called “Centre Chimney Cape Cod.” The 233 year-old structure has endured with minor repairs, and the Cape Cod style has also endured. To this day homes are still built in New England, USA with the same basic form. I believe the Cape Cod home has endured for a number of reasons.
First of all, the style is timeless: four walls, two roof pitches, and a large chimney smack dab in the middle. It is a quintessential home design that keeps out the weather and holds in heat.
Second, it is inexpensive to build. The design is so straight-forward that construction costs are kept low. A Cape Cod can be built quickly with efficient use of materials. About a decade ago, my neighbours in New Hampshire, USA had a two-story Cape built in a factory and delivered on four trucks.
In less than a week the large home was weather-tight and ready for plumbers and electricians. There can be little doubt that this type of approach would improve both the speed and affordability of home construction in Auckland and Christchurch. Whether it would be appropriate for the Regions remains to be seen.
Another of my neighbours in New Hampshire runs a small company called Shelter-Kit. They build flat pack kit buildings that can be packed into a shipping container and transported anywhere in the world. All of the materials are pre-cut and pre-drilled, and designed so that two people with basic tools can assemble a home in two to three weeks. They call their model the “Barn House.”
A third reason the style has endured is that it is durable. What I mean by this is that there are no complex rooflines or special flashing details required to keep water out. “Leaky homes” is a lingering problem in New Zealand with the estimated cost exceeding the Christchurch rebuild according to some sources. Keeping water out starts with good design, and in most cases the simpler the better.