The time has come, it seems, for Prefab. We here at the Eye of the Fish have long been ardent fans of Pre-fabrication of things, in order to build faster, cleverer, betterer, and more out-of-the-weatherer than doing it all on site. After all, when you buy a new car, you donâ€™t get a truck delivering a box of bits to your driveway to assemble, now do you? The automotive industry has long since held a massive lead over the housing industry in that respect.
New Zealand has actually had a long history of prefab, with the Treaty House at Waitangi being a prefab kitset home from Aussie, and a glorious experiment of NZâ€™s first real State houses, in Titahi Bay, were actually made in Austria and shipped over here flat-packed like a giant IKEA box.
Then we went backwards for quite some time, getting wedded to the idea of the man alone on a building site, with just his faithful dog for company, an old Hilux ute, and a thermos full of coffee. Yes, itâ€™s fun, itâ€™s kinda romantic, but also: itâ€™s wet. It rains in this country: a lot. It especially rains in Auckland, five times a day on average (count them!). Auckland is our city with our biggest population growth, our largest number of leaky building claims, our worst traffic problems, our most stupid transport solutions (cars! more cars!) and an awful lot of NIMBYs who all seem to think this is someone elseâ€™s problem.
Expect to hear a lot about Prefab in the next few days – the fantastic organization called PrefabNZ is having their annual CoLab in Auckland this week and there should be a lot in the press on this. Keep your eyes and ears and minds open. Prefabâ€™s time has definitely come, and the push is on. Better, faster, cleverer? Go Prefab.
(Bach – house by Strachan Group Architects – prefabricated offsite)
So what do we actually mean when we speak of prefab? Are we going to see houses delivered to site, ready assembled, on the back of a (large) truck? Ready to plug and play? Well, possibly: volumetric delivery is certainly one of the options. Or are you going to see a slightly smaller truck roll up to site with a bunch of flat finished panels, and a hiab crane pick them up and swing them into place? Well, thatâ€™s possible too – panelised homes are definitely on the cards. Or will you be able to build a new bathroom by just ordering one online, and having the whole thing delivered to site, plumbing and tiling already complete? Yep, that too. All these things already exist in Aotearoa as we speak.
(Genius Homes – house by First Light Studio – prefabricated offsite)
The last leg of this puzzle doesnâ€™t quite exist yet: the final interface. What if you could just go down to your nearest Bunnings, Placemakers, or Mitre-10 and just buy one and have it delivered to site at a low low price? Trying to build it at home is a pain in the arse, quite frankly, or at least certainly a pain in the lower sacro-iliac joints. You get the timber, and then your saw is old and blunt, so you buy a new saw, maybe one of those cheap electric battery powered circular saws. Then you buy a roll of cheap building wrap, but you donâ€™t need a whole roll, so you get some left over scraps from a mate. Half way through you run out and return to the store to buy that whole roll after all. Now You have some left over to give to a mate. By now youâ€™ve hit your thumb a few times with an old hammer your dad gave to you when you were twenty-one, as he thought everyone should be able to build their own house, even you. We havenâ€™t even got to the cladding yet, but by now youâ€™re on your 14th trip to Bunnings and the staff now know you by name. You know more about nails and screws than you ever thought possible, seem to own a packet of each with about half a dozen of each left over, so you still have to go back to the store to buy some more.
(not a prefab. Just a bad building practice)
Wouldnâ€™t it just be easier to go to the store and buy a complete wall panel? Made in the factory under control conditions? Delivered to site and installed in one day? Wouldnâ€™t it make more sense to go Prefab ?
(easy Bach – delivery direct to site)