Is prefabrication the answer to New Zealand's affordable housing woes?

"To build 21st century cities, greater support is needed for investment in new product technologies and materials. There must be a focus on building smarter and more efficiently, and investing in developing alternative products and building methods."
- Property Council New Zealand Manifesto 2017

The old adage "change is a-comin'" was never truer for the New Zealand construction industry than today. In order to house our community, we need to streamline construction processes and make developing and building affordable housing a worthwhile venture for private investors. Could prefabricated buildings be the answer to faster, safer, better buildings? The experts from PrefabNZ explain:

The strong leadership approach from our new government to address New Zealand’s housing affordability woes means that prefabrication is a tool that every developer should consider in their quest to deliver faster, safer, better buildings.

Prefab buildings are constructed offsite in controlled manufacturing conditions. Components, panels, volumes or complete buildings are assembled at the final construction site resulting in a faster build with less interruptions than a traditional build.

Some benefits include:

  • The ability to construct offsite and onsite at the same time resulting in a 60% time saving
  • Build to increased tolerances, therefore reducing remedial and defects periods
  • Construct at ground-level to reduce safety risks of height-based work
  • Increased margins by saving time, with an average cost saving of 15%
  • For further information, check out the Why Prefab info sheet.

Developers globally are choosing prefabrication as an innovative construction method when faced with a complex environment. Whether it be a constrained commercial site where traditional construction can’t spread out, or where tighter timeframes mean the build must be delivered in record time (such as hotels, student accommodation or other multi-unit residential projects) or in high-end staged developments where the first stage has been built in-situ and the second stage must be delivered with minimal noise, dust, transport and disruption to residents.

In order for the government to achieve their aim of supplying 100,000 homes in the next ten years, New Zealand would require a greater level of building than we've ever reached before. Even at our peak construction activity in the 1970s, just under 40,000 new homes were built per annum. To achieve KiwiBuild on top of already projected private construction the sector would have to hit around 44,600 homes a year in 2022.

As a country and an industry we are going to have to innovate and challenge ourselves to work smarter, not harder - the question may not be "why prefab", but "why not"?


Don't miss PrefabNZ Board Member, Leah Singer, at the upcoming Residential Development Summit on 21 February, and get up-to-speed with the heart of innovative construction from local and offshore experts at the PrefabNZ CoLab in Auckland on 7-9 March.

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