PrefabNZ’s top 17 questions for 2017

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Here are 17 questions you’ve always wanted to ask about New Zealand’s built environment in 2017 – from the macro to the micro.

Get in touch with PrefabNZ, as the voice of innovation in the built environment, to know more about how to get involved…

1. How important is the built environment industry today?

Construction is the fifth-largest sector by employment. It contributes 8% of New Zealand’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is similar to the amount the entire Waikato region generates. In the last three years, construction has seen 17% GDP growth. The construction sector is critical to the New Zealand (NZ) built environment that impacts on all New Zealanders. NZ is home to world-class expertise in design, manufacturing, products and research. Read more here

2. Who works in the built environment industry today?

There are over 230,000 full-time workers in construction and related services. This accounts for 10% of total employment in NZ. Female employees make up roughly 12%, or 1-in-8 built environment workers. This proportion is growing as more businesses work to address cultural barriers.

Over 30 built environment industry organisations are represented by the Construction Industry Council (CIC), including specifiers, manufacturers, distributors, builders, innovators and other building professionals. PrefabNZ is a member (with over 200 member organisations) – see the full list of CIC members at

3. What are the key issues for the built environment industry in 2017?

We are facing exciting and challenging times with construction projected to increase 20% to 2020 (from 2013 values). The resulting key issues for improving NZ’s built environment are:

·Quality, supply, affordability

·Addressing housing needs, such as medium-density

·Health and safety practices and performance

·Professionalism, trust and confidence in the industry’s work

·Earthquake resilience and recovering from seismic events

·Improving industry productivity through innovation

·Skills and nurturing future talent

Read an offshore perspective from the Motherland here

4. How is the built environment keeping up with Health & Safety regulation?

Health & Safety (H&S) performance in the construction sector has been poor in the past, with an average of ten fatal accidents and over 2,000 severe injuries each year. Falls from height are second largest cause of accident fatality in NZ after vehicles.

The new Health and Safety at Work Act came into effect in 2015 and has created a renewed emphasis on putting workers first. CIC member SiteSafe administers training for workers on construction sites through their Site Safety Card and Passport system – see

Worksafe is the Government organisation increasing awareness, acceptance and promoting action to change our H&S culture. They report that over 4,000 people attended construction roadshows about the new ‘falls from height’ legislation, and a further 2,300 attended forestry safety events. Worksafe develops codes of practice and guidance materials on matters such as asbestos management and removal. See these at

MBIE’s Standards division works on setting the rules that construction must adhere to for different construction types, most commonly NZ3604 Light-framed Timber Construction is referred to for residential building. The NASH Standard for Residential and Low-rise Steel Framing, Part 1: Design Criteria is available at

The Construction Safety Council (CSC) has developed the ConstructSafe tool. See

5. How can better procurement strategy help smooth out boom-and-bust?

The trend for government to use non-standard contracts is costly for the industry through additional time and (legal) cost to negotiate the variations, which becomes a divisive and adversarial process. A common theme for stakeholders is that government should make it mandatory to adopt MBIE’s procurement guidelines in central and local government procurement, unless there is a justification not to (PwC 2016).

At the end of 2016, the Government announced the Planning Construction Procurement guidance for government-controlled entities. These guides provide standards of good practice on specific aspects of the construction procurement process and aim to modernise the Government’s approach to construction procurement to align with good international practice. The guides link to other government-directed requirements such as Treasury’s Better Business Case (BBC). See more, plus online tools here

What’s next? Groups like Infrastructure NZ (formerly the Council for Infrastructure Development) are working to create the right forum for this discussion, as are the Registered Master Builder Association with the annual Constructive event. See

6. Is Medium Density Housing (MDH) the way forward for more affordable homes?

Affordable housing as the hot political issue for 2017’s central government election platform…

There are not enough homes that can be purchased on the average income – shameful statistics of house prices exceeding 10 x average income in Auckland and Queenstown. Auckland is now ranked the fourth least-affordable housing market in the world according to the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey. By the way, affordability means 1/3 of household income goes towards housing costs, regardless of whether renting or owning.

There is large demand for smaller one or two-person homes – plus demand to be near workplaces – so transport and infrastructure development go hand-in-hand with increasing housing supply. There is general agreement in the built environment industry that Medium-Density Housing (MDH) is a key way forward – reduced land use (see diagram below showing land as % of house build cost). Answers to solve the crisis lie in many areas – with a focus on land-use planning, immigration policies and increasing supply of housing, plus more solutions… Read the good work of Shamubeel and Selena Eaqub on solutions for ‘Generation Rent’.

7. How are earthquakes affecting the built environment industry?

It’s no secret that NZ lies on an active faultline which has produced our stunning landscape of mountains, rivers and dramatic geographic formations. More recently, Canterbury experienced deadly, continuous and unsettling earthquakes (2010-12), and more recent events centred around Kaikoura (late 2016) have had flow-on effects around the country. The result is a more urgent focus for property owners and local government to address earthquake prone buildings through remediation, or demolition if damaged beyond repair

CIC members from the Institute of Engineers (IPENZ) and Institute of Architects (NZIA) were involved with the Royal Commission enquiry after the Canterbury quakes – and have moved forward together to create more guidance for collaboration between architects and engineers. See the guidance

Many of our best architects, designers and engineers continue to create opportunities for more seismic-resistant structural systems in all materials – including great acronyms like PRESSS, PRESSS-Lam, STIC etc. Perhaps we can all design buildings that collapse and right themselves, like this…

8. How are issues with building quality affecting the work of the built environment industry?

The ‘Leaky building’ litigation legacy is a risk-averse local government and specifier culture which encourages the use of tried-and-true construction solutions. One solution was the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE’s) Restricted Building Work classification and Licenced Building Practitioner programme.

However, even standard building methods are prone to low quality workmanship. Recently there have been concerns over building quality in the Christchurch rebuild and in Auckland’s housing boom. As pressure on building costs mounts with wages and product prices escalating, there are growing issues with product substitution for imported non-compliant products.

Check out MBIE’s product assurance framework – and note that MBIE’s Codemark is at top meaning that it is automatically accepted by Building Consent Authorities, along with supplementary appraisals from BRANZ and others that play a supporting role in testing and verification. See more here

There are ongoing investigations into building defect issues – with the recent Taylor Report (July 2016) shown here on the CIC website

9. What are the CIC Guidelines and how can they help navigate these key issues?

In 2016, revised CIC Guidelines were launched as a documentation checklist to assist architects, designers and engineers working more cohesively with clients and project team members towards complete documentation. From their original adoption by the industry in 2003, the CIC Guidelines have become widely adopted and used, and now represent the single most cohesive interdisciplinary Guidelines available in New Zealand. Notable changes in the last ten years include new requirements in Safety in Design assessments/reports, Environmentally Sustainable Design, Building Information Modelling, along with other updated delivery modes for building processes. Download the Guidelines at

10. What work programmes are industry associations like PrefabNZ focused on currently?

In 2017, PrefabNZ will collaborate with other CIC member organisations on the following areas:

- Information and education – events, news, websites – such as the Building Officials (BOINZ) magazine Straight Up, webinars and events with the Institute of Architects (NZIA), Cluster events with NZIA, NZGBC, ADNZ, DINZ, IPENZ, BOINZ + NZIOB, and the CoLab site day tour with NZIOB…plus showing off UNIpod and Click-raft at in:situ and INEX events…see

- Awareness - Awards programmes, media awareness through print and online – such as the PrefabNZ Logs4jobs video at the Timber Design Awards…and Eboss Detailed blogs… and more…see

- Regulation, responding to calls for information, gathering views and consensus on action – advocacy is a largely unseen and vitally important part of the work of associations – and the major project for PrefabNZ in 2017 is the continued focus on Better Finance with banks, and bond and insurance providers, plus fostering collaboration in regulatory codes guidance across Australia and NZ…see

11. What is central government’s role in improving the built environment?

The National Science Challenge Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities was launched in 2016 – but 2017 is the year for action. It purports to apply a radically different research framework to drive fundamental change in the way the built environment industry delivers dwellings, towns and cities. A 9-year programme supported by nearly $50 million Government investment to 2024, it prioritises collaboration across research providers and stakeholders.

It would be a significant outcome for New Zealanders for the Challenge to meet its objectives of:An improved housing stock

- Meeting future demand for affordable housing

- Taking up innovation and productivity improvement opportunities

- Improving current and future urban environments and residents’ well-being

- Better systems for improved land-use decisions.

The PwC report identifies that government can constrain or support growth with the extent and quality of the regulation it imposes. It has a role to ensure that the regulatory regime is fit for purpose. Broader costs and flow-on effects of regulation must be balanced with broader benefits of that regulation. Suggestions for government focus areas from the PwC report include:

- Reviewing the costs and benefits of regulations for liabilities and health and safety

- Streamlining consenting

- Rationalising the number of building consent authorities (BCAs)

- Streamlining the procurement process

- Timing investments to support the industry.

See more

12. How is the built environment industry engaging with the public?

PrefabNZ is working hard to grow on past successes and keep engaging with our valued clients, the public, in these areas:

- Public engagement – trade shows, a future HIVE, demonstration projects, show homes…

- Build on great success of FirstLight house on waterfront and Kiwi Prefab exhibition at Puke Ariki and the HIVE Home Innovation Village in Christchurch – showcasing innovative construction collaboratively to a huge number of visitors…

- Now Grand Designs NZ is beaming innovative construction into living rooms everywhere… hooray!

- The new INEX event is an opportunity to showcase the potential of open-source bathroom / kitchen pods, eg. UNIpod and light-weight reconfigurable structural systems, eg. Click-raft...

13. How is the built environment industry preparing for the future?

PrefabNZ is infatuated with the future of the built environment – it’s everything that we stand for!

- How to stare into the future – BRANZ has a leadership position here along with MBIE and Callaghan together with CIC industry members…

- PrefabNZ CoLab – the main annual event for New Zealand’s hub for innovative construction – 21-22 March 2017 in Auckland – interactive, fun and thought-provoking international and national speakers with a wide range of designers, architects, engineers, builders, manufacturers, researchers and other building professionals in attendance

- Demonstrating the future through design competitions and prototypes for open-source chunks, eg. UNIpod bathroom / kitchen utility wall – see more here

14. What will housing options look like for future generations?

PrefabNZ thinks these folks have some good ideas:

- ‘Generation Rent’ authors Shamubeel and Selena Eaqub on owning versus renting etc.

- Australia’s Commonwealth Bank on eight alternative ways to home owndership

- Housing cooperatives such as Melbourne’s Nightingale trust etc.

15. What are some of the focus areas for the built environment industry in the future?

PrefabNZ is a member of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) working in these areas:

- Productivity – an increase of 1% in labour productivity is estimated to result in a gross domestic product (GDP) increase of around $139 million. Read more here

- Densification / Medium Density Housing or MDH / how our cities grow sustainably to create great liveable communities – see the good work of NZIA and ADNZ and NZGBC in this space at a PrefabNZ Cluster event

- Collaboration / connect research and industry around innovation in construction through projects

- Technology - Prefabrication, BIM, digital fabrication, big data, CAD CAM technology, Virtual Reality. See PrefabNZ’s Youtube channel such as this one on The Housing Puzzle from TedX Wellington 2016

16. What about the people needed to be part of NZ’s built environment future?

People and skill creation are obviously the power engine to the built environment. Recently, Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith said building activity was at a record high, topping $19 billion for 2016 after five straight years of strong growth. "This is the longest and strongest growth phase in building activity in New Zealand history. It involves record levels of investment in homes, commercial buildings and infrastructure." The number of homes being built in 2016 - 29,970 nationally and 9930 in Auckland - was more than double that of five years ago, and was the highest since 2004.

Did you know…

- Increasing uptake of information technology from designing in an office to making in a factory to assembling at site, means there are growing opportunities for ‘digital natives’.

- BCITO, the industry’s training organisation, hit a high of 10,000 apprentices in late 2016, but this is not enough to hit the government predictions of 50,000 additional workers needed by 2021, according to BCITO head Warwick Quinn. Several thousand more new apprentices per year are needed.

- Demographics are changing with growing numbers of older New Zealanders. For the construction industry to maintain the number of skilled workers it will need to attract a broader group of people to its ranks than it has in the past. In particular, this poses an opportunity for those with an increased technology focus, more digital natives and importantly more opportunities for women.

- PrefabNZ represents innovative construction and collaborated with BCITO on this recent video logs4jobs

17. How can I be more involved with the built environment industry?

Whether you are a built environment professional, an apprentice in training, a parent of a teenager considering their options, or one of our valuable digital natives, there is a way for you to be involved in this exciting growing industry.

- Engage with PrefabNZ as the front-door to innovation in the built environment industry

- Check out the Construction Industry Council at

- See all types of guidance at

- Participate in an event with PrefabNZ such as the March 2017 CoLab or any number of regional Clusters around NZ in 2017

- Watch some videos at BCITO’s YouTube channel and PrefabNZ’s YouTube channel

- Have fun!

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