Prefabrication can crack our housing shortage

13 February 2018

Context Architects has extensive prefabrication experience. With careful forethought, and a kick-start from recently announced high volume programmes of work, the stars are aligned for Kiwi prefabrication.

New Zealand’s housing shortage, and the parallel lack of affordable housing, is serious. Recent reports put the total shortfall at 71,000, with Auckland needing 45,000 new homes.

How to build more houses and build them faster, without breaking the budget or dropping standards, are questions we wrangle with every day. The government’s Kiwibuild initiative – 100,000 affordable houses in ten years, half in Auckland – makes the issue even more pressing.

We believe that prefabrication, or offsite modular manufacture is a big part of the answer. It can deliver houses up to 60% faster and 15% cheaper, with higher build-standards, than traditional construction. Accident rates and material wastage are greatly improved as most of the work happens in a factory rather than on a building site.

Our belief comes from our extensive experience. Many of our team including Principal Scott Cracknell and Associate Anton Fenwick have worked on large-scale residential prefabrication and modular projects in the UK, and we know from our work on multi-unit residential developments here that repeatable elements – bathroom and kitchen layouts, roof profiles, standardised window – mean lower build costs.

But you need scale to get the most out of prefabrication. Sizeable multi-unit projects are required to develop the systems that achieve savings. Fortunately for the industry here, alongside the implications of the Kiwibuild announcement, Housing NZ is also a proponent of prefabrication and leading the charge at the scale end, using modular off-site production techniques on live projects.

Add in sophisticated building-information management (BIM) and virtual-reality modelling – techniques we use to enhance the cost-and time-savings and improve quality – and you’ve got at least part of the solution to the housing crisis.

With demand-scale, experienced practitioners, and detail-focused working practices in place, the stars are lining up for prefabrication in New Zealand.