Prefab is short for prefabrication. It refers to any part of a building that is made away from the final building site. It can also be referred to as pre-built or off-site construction (definition from PrefabNZ).
MiTek has just celebrated 50 years of supply to the timber frame and truss industry. This is a sector that is often overlooked when discussing prefabrication. Indeed, new off-site construction companies have a tendency to portray the timber frame and truss sector as uncompetitive and lacking in innovation when comparing their own offerings.
The argument for pre-built or off-site construction to solve housing affordability makes unfair sector comparison. The contention set out by off-site construction companies is that New Zealanders are happy to live in a house that looks the same as the one next door. The argument then supports that contention because it offers the companies economy of scale for off-site construction based on production levels and multiple builds in the hundreds of units. Given this repetitive level of production, timber frame and truss would compete very well.
However, this is not the world that the timber frame and truss industry occupies or in which MiTek competes. The country has just come off historically the third highest number of consents in excess of 30,000 dwellings annually, a high percentage of which are one-off builds unlikely to be repeated. The timber frame and truss industry produces to the millimetre and fits together with very little on-site call back. Through clever frame and truss designs on cutting-edge software, with fixing innovations and huge investment in automation, the industry has upsized businesses and pushed through increasing one-off unit volumes.
The sector represents a half-billion dollar off-site industry created in a competitive world for timber frame and truss manufacturing businesses. Far from lacking in progressive thinking, the industry is in great shape and looks forward to producing sets of frames and trusses in the hundreds of repeat units when the opportunity arises.