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Ardex on how will prefab solve the construction capacity problem

Image: Ardex Christchurch
An opinion piece from Innovation Bites' partner Ardex.
Prefab as a construction technique is not new, but it is only relatively recently that is has started to gain traction and be broadly recognised.

However, to make this a successful initiative in New Zealand, the key driver is probably getting more developers to recognise the benefits in terms of construction time from commencement in the factory through to completion on site, combined with overall costs savings. With this recognition, they will start to insist that architects/engineers design the proposed developments to allow an increased volume of offsite manufacture. These architects need to work closely with the “manufacturers” to ensure the concepts can be constructed more efficiently/cheaply via a combination of offsite manufacture and onsite assembly. This thought process will also need to consider the issues associated with transporting from factory to construction site.

As a materials supplier, I believe that there is also a need for all suppliers to be involved in this engagement process to ensure the appropriate materials are selected to allow efficient initial assembly and ensure the “pods” can be transported to site without damage. This may require the redesign of products to allow more efficient assembly and to ensure durability once assembled. At the same time, it will probably be necessary to consider the proposed design to accommodate the proposed materials. Hence the collaboration process needs to be much wider than is currently occurring and should involve architects, “pod” manufacturers, materials suppliers and developers. Easily said, harder to achieve.

However, this will be of limited value to New Zealand if the only “factories” capable of achieving the scale required are located offshore. How do we solve this problem, because it has the definite feeling of chicken and egg, no demand means no factories, no factories prevents architects & suppliers being able to develop designs for offsite manufacture unless they choose to work with the existing high-volume manufacturers located in other parts of the world.

PrefabNZ is starting to raise awareness, the next step probably involves more formally bringing together all interested parties to create collaborations with the clear aim of achieving the desired outcomes.

As for how to get more commitment to large-scale “factories” in New Zealand, maybe that is an opportunity for the Government to “incentive” this development via the KiwiBuild programme.

Prefab is a great opportunity, but a long way to go.

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