Prefabricated houses – the modern approach?

It has been hailed as the answer to New Zealand’s (OK primarily Auckland’s) housing shortage. But it is not so modern. While the quality of, and efficiencies in production of, prefabricated homes has for many years been led by countries such as Germany, The Netherlands, and Sweden (to name a few) New Zealand was a pioneer in this area. Immediately after the first world war, the Railways Department developed the first large scale housing scheme in New Zealand. It followed Seddon’s Workers’ Dwellings (dating from 1906) and Samuel Hurst Seager’s “garden suburb” at Sumner Spur, Christchurch (1902-14). The department decided to establish a modern sawmill and kitset ‘House Factory’ at Frankton Junction (Hamilton), using rimu and mataī timber from its own central North Island forests. The factory eventually employed more than 60 workers and even had its own plumbing department to produce baths, sinks, pipes and spouting. From 1923 to 1929, when it closed, the factory produced almost 1,400 prefabricated houses. You can visit the House Factory and a few remaining prefabricated houses in the Frankton neighbourhood. Pre-fabrication should not be confused with modular. The former are usually large, fully finished, section of a building that are connected together on site. The interiors are then finished. Modular is a whole section of a constructed building that is lifted into place on site and almost immediately is weathertight and liveable. Modular homes have been around in for a while. Notable was Modular Building Systems Ltd set up in 1997 (not the current company of the same name). It provided fully built modules that stacked on top of each other to create 2 and 3 storey homes. Modular Building Systems Ltd  went under in 2001, and was struck off in 2004, following a number of quality problems centered on the interconnection between modular and the monolithic style of cladding. Pre-fabricated or modular buildings are not limited to residential buildings. Fully built bathroom/kitchen/laundry modules have been used in an Auckland tower block. More impressive is a recent building in China. The 30 storey T30 Hotel was built in 15 days by Broad Sustainable Building in Hunan Province, China. BSB say the type of construction is five times more energy efficient than ordinary constructed buildings, and it can withstand a force 9 earthquake. A time lapse video is at

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  1. Pingback: Is the quarter acre dream to blame for Auckland’s housing crisis? | SITE VISIT

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