Questions & Answers

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Why focus on prefab now?

You’ve all heard about sustainability. Now productivity is the new buzz-word at government and strategic construction industry level.

Prefabrication is a key approach to improve efficiency, effectiveness and productivity in the design and construction sector. PrefabNZ is aiming to be the point-of-contact for government-level strategy in this area. The latest Branz Industry Needs Survey shows how important prefabrication is in the current industry climate.

PrefabNZ is building on an innovative and rich history of prefabrication in NZ – from large-scale government investment in infrastructure projects (such as hydro-electric scheme housing) to some of the first one-piece fibreglass bathrooms (from Industrialised Building Systems in the 1970s).

Today we are riding the wave of renewed interest in prefabrication through the ‘green modern prefab’ and ‘offsite’ movement around the world. NZ is home to new-generation prefabs such as bachkit, port-a-bach, HABODE, ipad and k-bach, with many more in the wings.

There is no doubt that a lot is happening in the prefab world, but often it is happening in isolation. There is a clear need to coordinate, inform and in many cases, re-educate. The timing is right to build on prefab’s current profile, to join forces, create collaborations and market ourselves to the world.

What makes prefab so special?

Prefab is an agent for innovation and can offer higher-quality, more timely and cost-effective built solutions to clients. Unless you know about the range of available options, you won’t be able to benefit from them!

How exactly does prefab improve quality?

By constructing parts (components, panels, modules or complete buildings) in a controlled environment, away from inclement weather, where worker and resource use can be closely monitored and enhanced. “This type of construction method allows for greater quality control, as faults can be identified early and easily managed and addressed placing more professionalism back into the industry” Collin Clench (Performance Assurance Manager, Hutt City Council)

How does prefab save time?

By constructing parts off site (in a factory or yard) at the same time as on site construction takes place.

I thought prefab was meant to be cheaper – how does prefab save money?

Prefab is primarily a way to a higher quality built solution. It is possible to save money by repeating elements or details, reusing templates or jigs, and other efficiencies in a controlled environment. Also, cost savings can be achieved from a reduced timeframe and subsequent reduced borrowings.

Why is prefab housing a good solution for post-earthquake conditions?

Prefab housing offers a quickly deployable solution. It is used for replacement housing that is either temporary or permanent. Temporary housing can be re-used at other sites or sold through second-hand or recycled trading posts such as TradeMe. Prefab housing that is a modular or complete building form is reinforced with structural bracing to withstand transportation so it is very strong and can protect the occupants from future earthquakes. There is a good supply of prefab housing in New Zealand, both made here and imported from offshore.

Don’t all prefabs look the same – little boxes of ticky-tacky…?

Surprisingly, even cultures that appear to have more homogeneity than our own (such as Japan) claim that each prefab building is unique. As a general rule, the smaller the component, the greater the variation and computer-aided-design enables customisation by clients. We have moved from an era of ‘mass-standardisation’ in the mid-20th-century to an era of ‘mass-customisation’ today.

But isn’t prefab flimsy, temporary and mobile?

Not anymore! Past prefabs may have had one or all of these attributes but today the use of the computer for mass-customisation enables a variety of high-quality products to be designed, fabricated and constructed.

What’s so great about joining PrefabNZ?

Lots of tangible stuff (web, e-news, database, events etc.) but also, you get to connect your business with other industry players to either buy or sell prefab or offsite systems, technologies and production capabilities from or to related product and service providers.

How will joining PrefabNZ help develop my business?

Joining PrefabNZ puts you in touch with the prefab industry in NZ. Your organisation will benefit from an increased awareness of current research and development initiatives and possible collaborations and joint ventures with like-minded, compatible businesses. Why re-invent the wheel…

When is the best time to consider prefab options?

Learn about prefab options NOW so you have them in your prefab tool-box. Consider prefab as EARLY in the design process as possible. Meet with specifiers, potential contractors and the client early in the design process to find out when the design needs to be frozen, for potential prefab benefits to be maximised.

Why will prefab work now when it has failed in the past?

Today we have learnt from past mistakes and now understand that it takes more than great design – marketing and financial factors are crucial at start-up. We also have improved technologies (computer to machinery fabrication) and the market demand is there due to increased global prefab awareness since the early 2000s.

How can prefab be a more sustainable construction option?

How can prefab be a more sustainable construction option? In a controlled environment it is possible to minimise material waste through careful use and re-use, and to achieve minimal construction tolerances to prevent energy loss (and reduce running costs).

What does BIM and inter-operability have to do with prefab?

Industry buzz-words BIM (building information management) and inter-operability are ways for the industry to collaborate during the design and construction process, by working off a shared digital model with components (or panels or modules) traceable from design to fabrication to installation. This process is more efficient and productive. Many see this as the way of the future.

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