Leaky Homes Show Green Intentions Gone Wrong - Miller-McCune
Twenty years ago, changes to New Zealand’s construction and building inspection codes, the introduction of new materials, a shift in the style and design of homes, and, ironically, pressure from environmentalists, all combined to sow the seeds of a massive “leaky homes” problem.
Two decades after that perfect storm, the debris is now washing up on the shores of a recession-hit housing market, leaving thousands of people trapped in homes that are rotting around them, but which they cannot afford to repair and have no hope of selling.
Russell Cooney, past president of the New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors, says there are many people suffering from mental and physical health issues, and some reported suicides. “It’s a really terrible situation.”
Leaky buildings have also been an issue in North America. Isolated pockets have caused problems in North Carolina and Seattle, while a major scandal erupted over leaky condos built in Vancouver between 1983 and 1998. There, a soul-searching Commission of Inquiry considered submissions from more than 400 homeowners before drafting 82 recommendations for overhauling British Columbia’s building industry.
The causes of New Zealand’s troubles have been endlessly debated, with blame batted between shoddy builders, negligent building inspectors, short-sighted architects and designers, greedy developers, and the use of cheap, untested materials. Political scientist Peter J. May has blamed a “leaky regulatory regime,” too.