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Tim Swanson on the prefab revolution (listen)

Chicago-based architectural star Tim Swanson chats with Idealog about misconceptions about prefabricated construction, how it's disrupting the way we build things, and more.

Fact: there’s a greater need for buildings – be it affordable housing, schools, hospitals, offices, etc. – than ever before. Another fact: especially in New Zealand, there’s a serious need for people to work in the construction industry. And another fact: building things is expensive – and dangerous, as well as time-consuming.

And still another fact: prefabricated construction can solve a lot of the above problems.

Grant Bailey, principal landscape architect of New Zealand architectural firm Isthmus, is a believer. He says that with greater economic demands than ever before to build buildings quickly but also more stringent codes and regulations that also must be met, building off-site is an ideal option.

Pamela Bell, CEO of PrefabNZ, expands on this. She says prefabricated construction can be an advantage because building in a factory, as opposed to on-site, can be safer.

Bell adds New Zealand already has experience in prefab building, too. Most of the South Island town of Twizel consists of prefabricated construction, she says, and strict building codes mean there is no quality difference between structures built off or on-site.

But we need to be honest about something here. Admit it: when a lot of you think about prefabricated buildings, you think of that documentary you saw that one time about life in Dzerzhinsk or Zheleznogorsk or Seversk or Ozyorsk or some other such place far behind the Iron Curtain back in the Cold War, or that movie you saw where the characters were running through an Alabama trailer park for some reason or another.

Yet Tim Swanson, chief design officer of Chicago-based Skender (one of the top construction firms in the United States), says that’s simply not the case. In fact, Swanson – who has also served as head of the Chicago office of global company CannonDesign, and who will be speaking in New Zealand at the Design Experience Series in Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown (see https://designexperienceseries.co.nz/ for details) – says prefabricated construction isn’t just disrupting “traditional” on-site building, but is being disrupted itself. And that, he says, means there are exciting possibilities and implications for the future of architecture, urban design, and even the planet itself.

Tim Swanson.

Have a listen to the podcast with Swanson below.

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