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Goodhew: PreFabNZ Conference

Jo Goodhew

27 MARCH, 2014

Speech: PreFabNZ Conference

E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.

Thank you Pamela, and good morning to you all and welcome to the 2014 PreFabNZ conference.

I’d like to extend a special greeting to delegates from overseas, welcome to Auckland.

Putting together conferences like this takes time and energy.

I would like to start by acknowledging Pamela Bell, PreFabNZ chief executive, who has done so much to make this event possible.

Your 2014 conference is timely, given that New Zealand currently has a great surge in construction demand, much of which is in housing.

I understand that a major focus of PreFabNZ 2014 is identifying the tools necessary to accelerate prebuilt construction locally.

An increase in the uptake of prefabrication represents both opportunities and challenges for the prebuilt sector.

It will mean a major transformation in the way New Zealand currently constructs most of its buildings.

It will require all industry parties - architects, engineers, builders and manufacturers - to work together, cooperate, and share ideas, technologies and maybe even facilities.

It will challenge businesses right across the supply- and material- spectrum to start operating differently.

My overall message today is that a spirit of collaboration has a vital part to play in the prebuilt sector’s future.

A fresh look at prefabricated buildings

When people think about prefabricated buildings they often have an image of school classrooms from the 1960s, un-insulated and with peeling paint.

They automatically think: cheap, low quality and aesthetically unappealing.

This year’s conference is about challenging that out-of-date notion.

In 2014, the benefits of prebuilt construction are well understood and documented.

It offers value to customers who like their buildings delivered on time and on budget.

I understand a number of delegates took the ferry yesterday over to beautiful Waiheke Island.

You visited the Cora House up in the bush and saw the Box Living House, examples of strong, vibrant buildings using prefabricated components and techniques.

Tomorrow you’ll be looking at more examples around Auckland City.

Elam Hall Student Accommodation

Up the road from here is the Elam Hall Student Accommodation at Auckland University.

This 14 storey building is made up of 468 individual prefabricated modules.

Each module was fully finished.

This means fully finished with carpet, joinery, and electrical and fire safety components.

The building was a first for New Zealand.

The contractor was enthusiastic about the efficiency gains achieved through a prefabricated system.

Movement through the Auckland streets was minimised because the modules were delivered when needed – they were shrink-wrapped and stored off-site.

The number of trades on-site were also minimised.

These were all dealt with in the factory, when they were needed.

This example tells us about the benefits of prefab on the ground.

A long history

Prebuilt construction is by no means a new concept to New Zealand.

I was interested to learn that some of the first wave of 1950s Dutch migrants brought prefabricated houses here in their luggage!

Two of these migrants later founded Lockwood Homes, a prefabricated timber icon, with its easily assembled interlocking components.

Today, the frames and trusses in most of our houses are prebuilt, then erected on site.

But imagine if instead of just frames, we had closed panels with all the insulation installed, window frames cut-out and services ready to be wired.

This is the future of construction.

Other countries are streets ahead.

In Europe, closed panels mean the house being constructed becomes watertight very quickly.

The house is not left sitting in the elements for very long.

And this has to be better for the homeowner - and for the construction industry.

Government’s role

As Associate Minister for Primary Industries, one of the government’s priorities is to increase the value of forestry and wood product exports.

One way of doing this is by exporting high-value products, like engineered timber.

There are of course also opportunities for prebuilt construction beyond these shores.

One of the priorities of the government is to increase the value of our exports.

The Government is committed to help the primary sector double the value of exports by 2025.

We call this goal the ‘Export Double’.

As a leading player in the primary sector, forestry has a significant role to play in helping achieve it.

Role of engineered timber products

Achieving the Export Double for forestry and wood processing – transforming it into a $12 billion sector - will require greater levels of domestic processing, and a higher proportion of value-add products.

Greater use of engineered timber products is a practical way to draw more value from wood products.

Engineered timber can be easily manufactured into large panels for floors, walls and roofs.

It can be made into pre-fabricated structural components, such as long-span beams.

These products allow multi-storey commercial buildings to be constructed from laminated veneer lumber and cross laminated timber components.

Examples can already be seen in the Christchurch rebuild.

Our long-term aim is to support the sector to embrace that kind of sustainable future, to grasp the opportunities in high value wood products, locally and in export markets.

Engineered timber like Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) and Laminated Veneer Lumber are ideal for prefabricated panels, posts, and beams.

In parts of Europe, CLT is used to construct multi-storey buildings using modular construction methods.

Relevance of prebuilt sector to portfolios

Before I get too technical, I want to briefly touch on the relevance of the prebuilt sector to some of my other Ministerial portfolios.

Speaking as Senior Citizens and Associate Health Minister, I am convinced that prebuilt construction techniques have clear applications in aged care facilities - and for prebuilt modular hospital and health facilities.

Across the Tasman, the aged care and heath sectors have greatly benefited from advances in prebuilt construction activity over recent years.

Women in construction

Speaking in another capacity, as Women’s Affairs Minister, I am keen to ensure all parts of the building industry make the most of Kiwi women’s skills and experience.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs is working to strengthen recruitment and retention of women in industries where demand is strong.

This includes construction, transport and engineering.

Increasing women’s participation in innovation-related industries can help address expected skill shortages.

Christchurch rebuild

The Christchurch rebuild presents your sector with a host of opportunities.

Thanks to PreFabNZ, we are seeing prefabricated buildings showcased in a whole new way.

The HIVE Home Innovation Village located in Christchurch’s Canterbury Agricultural Park is a good example.

On show are eight or nine different types of prefabricated houses, using a range of materials.

HIVE celebrates its second birthday in April and is open until 2016.

I encourage you to visit when you’re next in Christchurch.

These architecturally-designed, aesthetically-pleasing homes are about as far away from those old school prefab classrooms as you can get.

In short, the prebuilt sector has come a long way.

Historically, one of the main barriers to uptake has been the high initial costs to set up a factory making products at a scale that is profitable.

It is therefore great news that the Prime Minister and Hon Gerry Brownlee recently launched plans for New Zealand’s first major panellised building factory.

In a joint venture between two Christchurch companies, NZ Panellised will manufacture pre-constructed walls, floors and roof panels.

This is an exciting initiative, one that deserves to do well.

Conclusion

As I said at the start, sector collaboration will be the key to future success across the prebuilt sector.

I encourage the architects, engineers, builders, and manufacturers in the audience to begin forming networks, to work with one another to create a strong, productive, vibrant construction sector.

The partnership approach to doing business will help ensure your sector gets to realise its potential.

If you grasp this challenge, I see a host of opportunities – and the potential for great success.

Thank you.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

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