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Guy Marriage - Developments happening in his world

Ngarara

Image: First Light Studio prefabricating at Ngarara

My role at Victoria University is to teach how and why we construct a certain way – both small-scale residential work, as well as bigger buildings. My third year class at Vic have just finished designing and detailing a 15 storey office building – each – which in some cases are superior to the efforts of designs I’ve seen going up in Auckland lately. It shows that with a short, good stint of quality education, we can upskill people rapidly.

We’re exploring some fantastic new systems of construction here at Victoria University, with super-bright young minds making the most of bouncing ideas off more experienced ancient people like me. The young students are fired up ready to save the world – their world – by exploring exciting new ideas about constructing the homes of the future. Ged Finch’s stunning work on X-Frame aims to transform the building industry, reducing waste out of the system. Emma Fell is working hand in hand with XLam on new methods of speeding up onsite work with CLT. And Brittany Irvine is developing really clever ways of creating medium density mass-timber homes that can lock together and create better spaces to live, work and play.

Prefab construction is an industry that is ripe for development and can start off a massive change in the way we build – if we want to. With prefab construction, we need more brains on the planning, designing and thinking side, which can dovetail well with less skilled labour on the factory production line. Not everybody building houses on a production line needs to be super-skilled – but they sure as heck need to be overseen by someone highly skilled. We need to cultivate the smarts on site as much as the backroom boffins.

In my other role, at First Light Studio, we encourage our builders to commit to more and more prefabrication. We’re gradually moving from mere wall frames, towards clad wall panels, with another push towards “Podification” of bathroom facilities as well. We want windows delivered already inside wall frames next, but the real time-saver goal is prefabricated roof panels, saving time and materials on site. We know how it can be done – now we just need the builders to take it on too. Its all part of the prefab universe, producing better homes for all New Zealanders. There’s no reason why kiwis can’t lead the world in this: the push for prefab is going on right here, right now.

- Guy Marriage

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