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21 September 2017

Partnering Experience and Expertise to Create Better Buildings

1709 Pamela Bell The Grounds exterior 1 1

It's no secret that engineered timber is red-hot in NZ and Australia right now. It can be a third of the weight of concrete, contain less embodied energy, and be up to 10% cheaper (for 3-7 levels). But take-up is inhibited by a lack of experience and expertise. One way forward is to bring in fresh enthusiastic players, or to gradually build on in-house skills by looking out to the learnings from offshore, such as the recent trips to Sweden by both prefabAUS and PrefabNZ. Another option is to partner businesses with differing levels of experience and expertise at an individual project level.

At PrefabNZ's CoLab earlier this year, Callaghan Innovation's Chief Technology Officer, Chris Hartshorn commented that "partnership is more important than technology." That's a big call, but there's no doubt collaboration is the best way forward to increase information, education and skills — plus it minimises mistakes leading to loss of time, quality and profits.

Here's an example of one of these partnerships — where experience meets enthusiasm, and emerging technology meets established craft-based techniques — the story of Stanley Group and Tall Wood.

Stanley Group

The Stanley Group is a family owned and operated business that has been delivering construction projects for over 80 years. Stanley's Modular division started in 2002 and has been focused on utilising the features of prefabrication to reduce timeframes, save clients money and give them a faster return on investment. Find out more about the Stanley Group here.

Tall Wood

A new company founded in 2016 from key directors combining prefabrication design, development, governance and strategy expertise, Tall Wood offers an integrated solution of design, management, supply and installation services for residential projects at scale. Find out more about Tall Wood here.

The Grounds, Hobsonville Point

The Grounds is a community of 42 one and two-bedroom apartments (31m² - 85m² excluding balcony) and a commercial space at the Hobsonville Point development. Comprising three buildings of three storeys each, there is a high use of engineered timber and offsite fabricated elements in the project which will enable the rapid eight month build time. This includes the use of Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) floor and roof panels, and offsite manufactured external walls and balconies that utilise LVL and glulam engineered timbers.

Project partners include the Stanley Group and Tall Wood, together with Peddle Thorp architects and Twenty Twenty Property Partners. The compressed timeline started with a bid process in late 2016 to the client, the Hobsonville Land Company, a subsidiary of Housing NZ Corporation. Design and price criteria were committed to with affordable housing being a required outcome of this project. Resource consent was lodged in April, building consent in July and construction is targeted to start in October with completion for mid-2018. Find out more about The Grounds here.

The Grounds exterior 1

Experience and expertise

Marketing material for The Grounds cites the partnering of "cutting edge production processes and centuries old techniques that are proven and trusted." The key parties bring their unique combinations of experience and expertise to the project.

Stanley's have brought a number of initiatives to the project, including their controlled factory environment, workstation assembly for panels and service pods or combined volumes, production-line efficiency, plus table-top jigs, permanent skilled staff, and monitored quality control. Results include improved sound and fire performance, reinforced construction to withstand transportation, and in-factory consent by an independent building certifier before travel to site.

Rob Marshall from Stanley's says "Partnering early in the design process with Stanley Group as a main contractor and supplier of offsite manufactured components has allowed for certainty of buildability, programme development and enhancement throughout the design process and accuracy of pricing."

Tall Wood have brought a commitment to engineered timber solutions, an emphasis on design for rapid assembly at site, and a focus on affordable outcomes in a housing market that is saturated with overinflated homes.

Daiman Otto from Tall Wood says, "Tall Wood and its partners are committed to providing affordable buildings first and foremost. Our contention is that quality and affordability are not mutually exclusive, but can be specifically and thoughtfully combined if the right approach is taken. Tall Wood develops products and typologies that are intended to be duplicated. This is not about a copy and paste approach to architecture and construction, but a recognition that there is value in certainty — particularly certainty in how a building will be made, its parts and assemblies and how that goes together in the most predictable and affordable way."

The Grounds exterior 2

Partnering for the future

Amy Wright from Carter Holt Harvey Woodproducts recently said "Collaboration and innovation throughout the industry is the way to address the challenges we face, and create safe and reliable building solutions that fit our unique lifestyle, climate and location."

By partnering experience and expertise, those in the building industry can learn faster, adapt quicker and create better buildings.

Written by Pamela Bell, founder of PrefabNZ.
Pamela is a consultant for innovation in the built environment. For more information, visit her website.

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