Changing the prefab mindset (with help from Grand Designs)

Changing the prefab mindset (with help from Grand Designs)
TV shows such as Grand Designs are doing their bit to educate punters about the prefab industry, but there's still a long way to go, says PrefabNZ chief executive Pamela Bell.

prefabnz road mapTV shows such as Grand Designs are doing their bit to educate punters about the prefab industry, but there's still a long way to go, says PrefabNZ chief executive Pamela Bell.

The industry group has just wrapped up its national conference and launched its Roadmap for New Zealand, outlining a range of goals and actions for the industry, from investigating export markets with NZTE to connecting manufacturers with major project clients and integrating products with building information models (BIM) and specs.

PrefabNZ, which in its three-year tenure has established the temporary showcase Home Innovation Village in Christchurch and is working to develop a permanent medium-density housing showcase in Auckland, aims to increase the uptake of prefab in the sector to 40 percent by 2020.

The main focus, according to Bell, is on marketing and increasing public awareness – "to bust some of those crazy misconceptions we've got about prefab being cheap and flimsy" and reframe the debate around the technology involved, the time saved, the sustainability factor and quality.

"The main thing is to help people understand the benefits of prefab in terms of time savings, which then equates to cost savings," she says. This is known as 'earlier profitability'.

"And if you put more planning upfront you're going to get a better result."

With efficiency comes affordability - a hot button topic in housing right now. The organisation says the demand for well designed, high quality, affordable housing options in the next five to 10 years can't be met if we continue down our current path.

PrefabNZ is pro-intensification, obviously, and Bell says there are many ways prefab can play into that, from panels to modular bathrooms.

She says PrefabNZ has been working with Auckland Council on establishing an Auckland showcase to exhibit various types of dwellings and densities, from row houses to walk-ups.

"We're not talking about 20-story Hong Kong accommodation towers," she says. "There's so much misunderstanding about medium density."