Sustainable Habitat Construction

Building a Better Way

About SHAC

The Sustainable Habitat Challenge is a network of people designing and building more sustainable buildings and neighbourhoods.

SHAC is a business that is lead by our values.  Our commercial practice is how we conduct research and develop our ideas. We are a social enterprise. Our clients provide money that sustains our business, but money is not why we are in business. 

We believe that sustainable building is about warm, affordable, healthy houses and communities.  

It’s about creating the home we want without accumulating a lot of debt.  A sustainable house will be high quality, keep us warm and preferably be solar powered. It will be modular, and can grow, shrink, or change with our needs.

In the past, New Zealanders lived in smaller homes; ones that had a gentle impact on the environment and didn’t drain resources. These houses were also relatively cheap to build. There’s nothing wrong with a big house, it’s just that building a 250m² house costs a lot of money.

Sustainable building is about helping people spend time doing what they enjoy rather than paying off a huge mortgage. Our focus is high-quality, not-so-large, more affordable and modular houses.

A sustainable home should last. New Zealand legislation states that homes need to last fifty years, but buildings should last much longer than that – while at the same time being adaptable to the future.  This means being changeable inside and in some cases changing the size of the house as well.

The best buildings are flexible; they could be an office in one generation and a family home in another. Sustainable building should be comfortable to live in now, and can also be adaptable for the future.

Part of SHAC’s research is looking into different ways of building – particularly the ‘working bee’ concept. This process involves a large group of people coming together for a building project.

Instead of just having a couple of people working on a house-build for months, you can get a big group working for a short amount of time. It wasn’t that long ago in New Zealand when families and communities would come together to help build what they needed. 

The ‘working bee’ concept feeds into the idea that living sustainably is about living well and with purpose, while acknowledging those in your community, friends and extended family.

It’s about providing people with options. Sustainable housing supports living well, with less reliance on resources, while giving you time to discover your purpose and do what you enjoy.


We practice commercially to fund our operations and to develop our ideas.

We run competitions to find innovations. In 5 years we have worked with over 2,000 designers, builders, and people all over New Zealand - helping them to create and share their ideas for sustainable housing and living. [200920102011,2012a2012b, 2013]

We publish our designs open source to help these ideas scale by allowing others to contribute to and benefit from them. [here, and videos too!]

We collaborate with polytechnics and universities like the Otago Polytechnic, CPIT, Unitec.  


We prototype innovative housing solutions - [lots here, and more here too!]

We work in our communities to understand local possibilities and capacities.

We design and build houses and neighbourhoods.

We make modular building and solar technology affordably and available.

We create practical designs from fusing advanced technology, research and development with traditional and historic practices and technologies.

SHAC - affordable, delightful housing, micro architecture, simple buildings, solar power, working bees, and more... 

SHAC is about living well with less reliance on resources, and finding our purpose.  See for more info, and also see

Would you like us to build you a small house, or help your community run a working bee building project?

Are you interested in contributing, seeking a design team, or do you want help to develop your idea?

Please contact us:

Tim Bishop
[email protected]
National Coordinator
021 705 346


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