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The building blocks of new Christchurch?

Written By: - Date published: 11:01 pm, March 16th, 2011 - 97 comments
Categories: disaster, housing, housing insulation, jobs - Tags:

Me and others: So how come the government seems to have no plan for rebuilding Christchurch or desire to get one?
Righties: Well, um, Key’s awesome and, anyway, what’s your plan, smart-arse ?
Me: I’m not the government, rebuilding Christchurch isn’t my job. But here’s where I would start.

So, there are three big problems facing Christchurch

  • unemployment: on top of the 13,000 people that were already unemployed in Christchurch a quarter of Christchurch’s workforce is out of work right now because of the quake. 5,000 of their jobs are permanently gone, while 45,000 jobs are closed now but hope to re-open. All those lost wages are going to destroy consumer demand and more jobs will go as a result.
  • lack of temporary housing: winter is coming and there are a lot of people in homes that are no longer properly weathertight. Crapping in a long-drop will be a whole lot less fun as it gets colder. A lot of people have left Christchurch but they can’t all stay away for long, there’s not a capacity to accommodate 70,000 people in other cities. And then there’s all these workers that are supposed to come from out of town, where will they live?
  • skills shortage: Where are we going to get all these skilled workers for rebuilding? 3,400 building industry workers have left for Australia alone in the last year. What’s meant to draw them back? Higher wages? Yeah, right. After the floods, there’s plenty of building work over there and the pay’s 50% higher.

Here’s the solution to all three problems: the HiB building system

Those clever Germans came up with this idea. Wooden frame ‘bricks’ that slot together like lego to form walls and are then filled with different types of insulation depending on the need. This award-winning system was chosen to rebuild homes in the US city of Greensburg after a Force 5 Tornado flattened it.

The advantages of this system are nearly endless:

No need for special building skills or equipment. Quick to assemble – after the concrete base is set, a complete house can be up in two weeks with a small unskilled crew overseen be a professional builder (see this video). Super-insulated, eco-friendly, natural materials, healthy to live in, earthquake-resistant. (here‘s a good powerpoint show on the advantages)

They’ve even got a basic ‘HiB shelter‘ model for quick erection in crisis situations that costs only $30,000 and can later be deconstructed with the blocks used again in permanent buildings.

If I were Key, I would get on the blower to the Germans, get a licencing agreement from them, then call up Fletcher Building  – who, in the absence of government leadership, have already shown the initiative to come up with a plan for 1,000 temporary homes – and see if they can’t start turning out the wooden parts. Get them shipped down to Christchurch, have employ teams on block assembly, others on prepping the temporary sites, and, finally, construction crews.

By the time the emergency housing need is sorted there should be a good understanding of how many new houses will be needed and where they can be constructed. There will be an experienced workforce ready to go and they can start building full, permanent homes using the HiB system.

Meanwhile, the skilled building workforce has been largely freed up for work on commercial buildings. Although they, too, can be built with HiB if they’re three floors or less.

Frankly, I don’t know why we’re not building State Houses with this system already. It’s a brilliant way to get communities involved in building their housing and so quick to go up. The housing shortage in Auckland could be fixed at the same time as Christchurch’s.

Or we could just wait and see if the invisible hand will magically do it for us.

97 comments on “The building blocks of new Christchurch? ”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    Well, it’ll work. But I think driving through an area of all HiB homes would be pretty unsightly, even worse than driving through most subdivisions at the moment.

    However given the scale and time frame required, I think any sort of mass development is going to look monotonous.

    • Marty G 1.1

      they put exterior cladding on them, can be anything. it doesn’t look like a lego building when finished 🙂 http://www.hib-system.com/index.php?article_id=33&re_id=5&clang=1

      note the steep roofs in the standard designs are for snow in germany.

      • Lanthanide 1.1.1

        Ahh, I was looking at the rendered “pre-designed houses” section, not the actual photos.

        They all do have a certain look about them, though. Might just be the preponderance of fairly tall narrow windows though?

        • Marty G 1.1.1.1

          again, german design.

          the state-housing suburbs were built off about half a dozen floor plans but they were bloody good for their time.

          • Shane Gallagher 1.1.1.1.1

            Yep – tall narrow windows are a German thing – you can have any design you want here – you could easily knock up 20-odd house designs so that there isn’t too much uniformity. They are a great system.

            • ianmac 1.1.1.1.1.1

              I regret having large windows in our newish house. Windows are needed for light, air, view. But we seem to have become wedded to big windows yet many people then cover them up with net curtains, blinds. Bring on narrow windows and conserve heat.
              As always Marty constructive and practical with vision tossed in. (I expect the critics will come up with, “Who do you think you are? You have no right to tell our Government what to do! )

              • Lanthanide

                Big windows are good if you’re on a hillside with lots of scenary and the resultant privacy of no one being able to look inside your house (except from a distance). They completely suck in a residential setting unless you’ve got high fences/trees.

              • M

                ianmac, I lived in a house that had large windows – I estimate that about 40% of the housed was glazing and the rest brick.

                All the places I have lived in since then have had small/medium sized windows as I’m trying to be ready for when power bills go sky-high and also it’s a pain if there is not much wall space to hang pictures.

                German-designed passiv houses are extremely well insulated, so much so that heating is much reduced and small windows are on the northern side of the house and larger, but not overly large windows are on the southern side of the house.

                Maybe we should be taking a few leaves out of the books of German architects.

                • Herodotus

                  With the building resquirements now requiring that we double glaze (adding aprox $5-$10k/house in costs) this will for new homes reduce the power consumption. But as a by product of the costs then windows may reduce in size to allow housing to be less unaffordable.
                  With sections becomming tiny (in NZterms) there is also a reason for smaller windows or the use of obscure glass – privicy. For streetscaping windows (bay in particular) allow for some flair in design and stop the street from appearing for all intense purposes boring and lacking character. Finally with our kiwi culture many houses allow indoor outdoor flow with sliding/byfold doors constructed of glass.

                  • Drakula

                    If this German design has long narrow windows, that is good in fact the older style Japanese houses built their windows between the studs making the structure infinately stronger than homes with large windows.

    • felix 1.2

      If anything, this type of construction lends itself to more personalisation and flexibility in design, not less.

      And as Lanth touched on, most contemporary suburbs are monotonous anyway, and that’s the free market building whatever it will.

      Mind you large tracts of the inner city “character” suburbs like Ponsonby and Grey Lynn were just cookie-cutter mass produced blandness at the time of construction. Whole streets of the exact same villa repeated every 10 yards or so. How boring.

      With time though, people make them their own.

      • Herodotus 1.2.1

        And as Lanth touched on, most contemporary suburbs are monotonous anyway – perhaps that is because those outside the building industry do not see the subtly in design. Go driving with a house designer and you will be informed as to what the streetscape telss – condition of economy at the time of design, trends, immigration influence, town planning influences etc.

        • felix 1.2.1.1

          Actually it’s due to my experience in the industry – on both design and building sides – that I’m not distracted by superficial differences. Also you’re not really disputing the monotony by pointing out where the blandness changes to another type of blandness.

  2. Kevin Welsh 2

    Would you rather shit in a bucket in the back yard during a Christchurch winter Lanth?

    At least its a start and can’t be any worse than what passes for a modern subdivision with houses cheek-to-jowl, all built to the same variation-of-a-theme and made of the same materials. Shit, you can’t even fart with any privacy they are so close together.

    As long as they are warm, dry and with services, I would think most people would be grateful.

    I know I would.

    • Lanthanide 2.1

      Yes, I understand the need for quick houses. But at the same time there is anxiety that the CBD of Chirstchurch is going to end up looking like a sterile tilt-slab and glass moonscape. Surely we don’t want our newest suburbs to also look unattractive? We don’t want them turning into ghettoes because everyone would prefer to have ‘regular’ houses.

      Ideally these new houses should be so well constructed and energy efficient that they are preferable to the old style in the city – hopefully HiB homes could deliver on this goal.

      If we’re going to do a mass-building programme, it needs to be done properly so that the houses are desirable in the future.

      • Pete 2.1.1

        Avoiding the old state house cluster of boxes method.

        Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds)

        1. Little boxes on the hillside,
        Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
        Little boxes, little boxes,
        Little boxes, all the same.
        There’s a green one and a pink one
        And a blue one and a yellow one
        And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
        And they all look just the same.

        • Bright Red 2.1.1.1

          that’s about suburban sprawl in general and middle-class conformity in general.

          It’s not about state houses, which replaced the slums with what at the time was good middle-class housing.

        • bbfloyd 2.1.1.2

          thanks for the name pete… i’ve been trying to remember her right name for ages…. the point you make falls short of depth, or relevance, and i’m sure the lady herself would have had an issue with your use of her words, but thanks anyway.. she wrote some beautiful poetry and lyrics…

        • M 2.1.1.3

          IIRC state house designs were not permitted to repeated more than once every ten houses and having lived in a state house for a time they are still far superior in construction than a lot of the dross put out now that is over-glazed, oversized and sieve-like.

          With some retrospective insulation many of the old state housing stock could be fashioned into comfortable if snug retreats. Homes in the future where you can hold a barn dance in your bedroom will be too expensive to heat and size will definitely become a liability.

          • KJT 2.1.1.3.1

            State houses have always been good quality.
            They make good bones for removal houses, unlike some more expensive houses.

            Usually to the fashion of the time, but look at the new parts of Albany, Orewa or Omaha for monotony.

            If you are going to re-house 10 000 people in a short time frame I think some standardisation of designs is inevitable.

            I would like to see Christchurch rebuilt as a world example of a 21st Century eco city, I think there is a unique opportunity to differentiate Christchurch and NZ here.

            Napier is unique because it was rebuilt according to one fashion era.

      • ianmac 2.1.2

        There are many new housing estates which will become tomorrow’s “State-house ghettos.” Have a look at the regular roof colours, big windows, double garages, and very close neighbours. Row after row of them and one of them is mine. The differences are really just one of size. “Our house is bigger than yours, so we are better than you.”
        When drawing up plans for a three-bedroom house there are very few options for differences.

        • Drakula 2.1.2.1

          I share Kjt’s aspirations Christchurch can develop a state housing that is good value eco friendly and energy sustainable. I don’t think that they have to be gheto’s if people are given the freedom to make them their homes and that can be done with a rent to own scheme.

          Remember Christchurch has been through a huge (by NZ standards) disaster this isn’t really the time to sip our champaign and consider the aesthetic delicacies.

          A city has to be rebuilt quickly and functionally and I think Marty has come up with a winner!!!!!!

  3. ChrisH 3

    Hell, if we could build houses quickly for $30,000 on some patch of farmland made accessible by a new railway, e.g. Rolleston, there’d be no need to charge half a million as we do now. So I don’t see the landlords’ party rushing to embrace this idea. Where would it end?

    • grumpy 3.1

      I actually have a bit of land at Rolleston, already zoned for high density residential.

      We’ve had a couple of developers at the door already. The big problem there is sewage – the Rolleston system is at peak and the new proposal is to pipe via Lincoln into Christchurch.

      • Drakula 3.1.1

        Grumpy; be carefull of developers, they are trouble.

        “A proposal to pipe to Christchurch”? That’s interesting, I guess the Selwyn District Council was trying to piggy back off Christchurch to save money or to divert money into their buddies slush fund; that being The Central Plains Water scheme.

        Well it looks like that is fucked doesn’t it?

  4. stevo 4

    Our homes in NZ are rubbish, cold draughty wooden tents with brick cladding if you were lucky (or not so lucky in CHCH). The newer ones a sea of tiled roofs visible just above the std 1.8m regulation fence with a metre between them? Is this what affordable NZ housing architecture has become? It is nothing to cherish. It is unsightly.

    The HIB buildings look great and would be great on all levels. What an opportunity to avoid more of the same flawed thinking trotted out by the likes of gjgodenhomes etal.

    Another opportunity to be fumbled away by clan Key.

    • todd 4.1

      These buildings look fantastic and the designs coming from Germany will no doubt stand up to our weather. Personally I wouldn’t mind areas looking the same to save construction time, but it would seem a simple thing to ad a bit of variety.

      Shonkey will be too busy smiling and waving with Prince William to give it much thought though. You know, who gives a damn about the freezing homeless when there are photo opportunities to be had.

  5. 26-64 5

    @MartyG

    it’s a bloody good idea. Now why doesn’t it happen? Anyone who’s driven through a place like, say, Matarangi or Omaha will be unable to support any argument that “they look all the same”. And who holidays in places like that? oh that’s right, our own PM. HiBs don’t look all the same – there is more variation in those few photos than the standard biege and grey outpost “bach” currently in fashion for the rich and famous. There are lots of reasons why it won’t happen though – and none of them are about need, purpose, price or practicality. Not to degrade your ability to find options at all, but if you can come up with a viable option over night, what have our leaders been up to? Why do they need a state of emergency to make the co-ordination of plans that don’t exist that much easier?

    • Marty G 5.1

      “Why do they need a state of emergency to make the co-ordination of plans that don’t exist that much easier?”

      indeed. and why would they need the state of emergency for that purpose?

      The fact is, they don’t need the national state of emergency to be in place. Nor did they need it just after the quake. A local state of emergency was sufficient. They’re just keeping it in place now until after the memorial day to make things more dramatic.

      • Tigger 5.1.1

        Congrats Marty for offering a solution (or at the very least an option) to a crisis. Great stuff.

      • Rich 5.1.2

        I think the state of emergency is actually detracting from getting things done. You’ve got a small group of people with no accountability making (or not making) decisions.

        It would be far better to have a democratic, accountable, community based model. That doesn’t mean that decisions have to be bogged down, just that they have to be made and justified. If we need legislation, parliament could do a 5 day week and National’s other (crap) legislation could be put on hold.

      • Drakula 5.1.3

        Marty; states of emergency with striping of democracy of Ecan then CERRA and now a national emergency, not to mention Auckland super city, I suspect that there is a more sinister agenda here.

  6. vto 6

    Hmmmm, looks good. With plenty of scope for individuality. There are many similar modular systems around for housing, including some made in NZ like Lockwood, which are near bullet-proof when it comes to quake and cyclone damage (except for one I saw with 2 of the 20 newly arrived garden boulders sitting inside the house).

    But yes you’re right in that a plan for residential housing to replace those lost is needed quick smart. It has only been 3-4 weeks so far so perhaps a bit hopeful to expect a plan before now. But certainly right now or very very shortly plans will have to be revealed on the where, when and what of replacement housing. I would expect that necessary investigations have been well underway.

    Trouble is nobody knows where this plan development is at….. and this is where it came unstuck for Parker etc following the September quake. There was not enough information being put out to the public. The public are smart. They don’t need to be mollycuddled – they just been shat on twice by The Great Earth Monster, Key and Brownlee are just a couple of little squirts in comparison. So, the authorities need to outline where things are at – if they are nowhere, if they are partly done, if they have run into diabolical problems, etc, just tell everyone. Otherwise everyone will bite back.

    • Lanthanide 6.1

      “There are many similar modular systems around for housing, including some made in NZ like Lockwood”

      Yes, this is a particular issue that needs to be addressed in Marty’s plan – why should we partner with a German technology when we should theoretically have all the technology we need in NZ? Buy NZ made and all that.

      I guess the answer is that we try and make a hard contract with them were all timber and supplies used are NZ sourced where possible and that what we’re acquiring is the IP and initial project management/training. If done properly, ultimately this should result in a HiB building industry in NZ that could export around the world.

      Note also that Auzzie and now Japan are both going to have to go through rebuilding programmes, so NZ isn’t alone in terms of requiring planning – we consult with these countries on how they’re approaching the issue, pool our ideas and resources and come up with something good. Alternatively NZ could take the lead.

  7. Colonial Viper 7

    Awesomesauce Marty G.

    Marty G for Mayor of Christchurch I say!!! Or at least Council CEO 🙂

  8. vto 8

    Just a bit more on Chch building blocks…

    We have Prince Willy arriving today and that is definitely generating some excitement for those so exciteable. The memorial service has clearly been hastily arranged too early for the citizens in order to get some political advantage for John Key.

    Similarly, as expressed nice and rightly angrily by Antony Gough (major CBD property owner) in todays Press, the demolition continues unabated. There is an unseemly haste, similar to the memorial service, in attending to damaged buildings. And there is a real anger at this which has grown exponentially in just the last few days. The possibility of civil disobediance has stuck its ugly mug over the parapet (enough to take on the military and bust down the cordons en masse).

    Both of these things – the undue haste for the memorial service and the undue haste in demolition raise the question why…

    Then of course we remember that there is an election in November. For Key to regain in Christchurch the city needs to be well on track with recovery and especially new buildings being actually built. So progress can be seen. Otherwise, following a dismal winter and problems in recovery and slow rebuild, on top of no rugby, and remembering ecan and all that, Key is doomed in this town.

    So is that the reason for the undue haste? Every day and week matters right now at the front end of the timeline if your agenda is a successful re-election in November.

    • Rich 8.1

      Isn’t it nice that Wills and Kate (net worth in the tens of millions) are donating other peoples money to Christchurch.

  9. Pete 9

    They should be very careful about fast rebuilding on quicksand.

    • Marty G 9.1

      Clearly no one is talking about building on land prone to liquefaction.

      • Pete 9.1.1

        I admit I thought of that reading something on another topic where rapid rebuilding was mentioned but thought I’d slip it in here. Not meaning to diss your suggestions, exploring all good options is worthwhile. If there is a gap in the market for a good building method then it should be addressed. But rebuilding is something they have to try and do as fast as possible without rushing in to it. The only certainty is people will keep getting very frustrated.

        • Colonial Viper 9.1.1.1

          If there is a gap in the market for a good building method then it should be addressed.

          IF???

          This is not about meeting the market, it is about meeting need, and the market is damn slow at doing that in some instances. How many people are going to be in temporary shelter through Winter I wonder.

          On another note I feel sorry for Japan. Negative deg C temperatures forecast and hundreds of thousands without housing.

    • Lanthanide 9.2

      Looking at the building plans for CHCH from the 1950’s, Bexley et al were always supposed to be a green belt separating the city proper from New Brighton anyway.

      • Puddleglum 9.2.1

        Yes, from a vague conversation I had with someone looking into that history (correspondence, etc.), central government (at the time it was a National government, post-WWII) basically announced the plan to set up Aranui after offers from landownders who noted the (previous) government’s interest in social housing. Apparently, the aim was to have a largely private housing area with some token state housing – but it turned out the opposite.

        Anyway, the local response was to argue ‘caution’ because of the ground/soil structure. The government responded by saying that this was an announcement, not a ‘consultation’. Done deal.
        FWIW, that was the gist of what I was told.

        Some landowners no doubt did quite well out of it – the land couldn’t have been much good for anything else (or for building, actually, but at least there was a ‘willing buyer’ – good old nanny state to the rescue.).

      • Drakula 9.2.2

        That’s right La.that’s until the bloody land developers got in on the act, this is where there needs to be very strong endorsment of laws like RMA and the banning of land developers on the council legislature.

        It’s a slippery slide into the shit, – – – Leaky homes – – -and liquified homes – – and we are to believe that corruption in NZ does not exist !!!!!!!!!

  10. just saying 10

    Great thinking.
    Could this be a guest post on Red Alert, as a discussion piece?

  11. Sanctuary 11

    Arrrgh! this is one of my absolute bug bears. Our houses are over-priced, lightly built structures assembled using old-fashioned and inefficient techniques.

    Materials are grossly over-priced in this country – as per usual, a duopoly gouges the local market. Secondly, I just cannot understand why, in the 21st century, our houses are still all more or less bespoke commissions built by artisans and craftsmen whose productivity can be (to put it kindly) notoriously hit and miss.

    Bespoke housing built by artisan craftsmen is for Grand Designs, not every day houses for average citizens.

    These types of modular and pre-fabricated houses, pre-cut in four hours by three taciturn Germans using highly accurate robots in a heavily automated factory, are pretty much typical in Europe.

    • Lanthanide 11.1

      The cost of materials absolutely astonishes me compared to the prices they pay in the US.

    • MrSmith 11.2

      Santuary when was the last time you built a house? if these building companies are making so much money why are they going broke, Sovereign Homes being the latest, the housing market in new zealand is very competitive at the moment, but commodity prices are going up all the time, so sorry but houses are only going to get more expensive, the other factor here is the price of land, but like they say ‘they don’t make that any more’ so it is unlikely to get cheaper any time soon.

    • KJT 11.3

      Productivity of builders here is good.

      House owners who insist on using unqualified and dodgy builders, who undercut the good ones do not help.

      I would not mind a dollar for every time a home owner has tried to get me to cut corners because as they say “I will not be in this house in 20 years”.

      It is materials that are the problem. You can build the same house for less in Australia despite the builders working half as hard for twice as much money.

      Kitset and modular houses are available in NZ, but most of us like at ;least the illusion of having a bespoke house.

      • Tel 11.3.1

        and I’ll add to that: clients who insist on using the cheapest possible product, sourced from a garage in the suburbs, and installed by unqualified/unskilled labour is enough to drive me nuts!

        I concur, materials are the problem. I recently had a client who got all the window glass for his house cut to size and made (tempered) to NZ standards, delivered to NZ from Indonesia for half the cost of any local glass supplier. Simply astounding!

  12. Sanctuary 12

    According to King Gerry 1st’s latest press release, there is no need for a plan.

    The market will provide a solution.

  13. I’d be all for converting shippping containers into living space and hanging them off a steel frame thats isolated from the ground with chunky rubber.

    or laying them out communitarily in a nice council reserve with some converted to communal kitchens, shower blocks and toilet facilities.

    Then when they’re not needed any more they can be sold off or stored and readily shipped to the next disaster zone.

    Might re inspire NZ to become an engineering powerhouse and kickstart building a lot of steel based infrastructure like rail

    google>> steel containers living space

    but heres the first link anyway
    http://green.yahoo.com/blog/daily_green_news/8/twelve-amazing-shipping-container-houses.html

    chur eh ?

    • 26-64 13.1

      Very cool and far from unified in appearance despite their common design origin. I bet a good architectural draughtsman could design twenty variations on the standard unit within a couple of days.

      • pollywog 13.1.1

        …and theres probably still a stackload of ’em by the Waltham overbridge, unless they all fell over, just waiting to be door and window fitted, insulated, then trucked off to where they’re most needed in no time at all.

  14. tsmithfield 14

    Instead of promoting German kitset houses, why not suggest a a local alternative?

    • ianmac 14.1

      Indeed. They are honest houses and probably warm and secure.

    • Marty G 14.2

      because the hib system is award-winning and had the advantage of being very quick to construct with an unskilled crew thanks to the unique block modules. Plus very well insulated

      • grumpy 14.2.1

        The Fraemohs and Lockwood houses have stood up very well. Good designs too!

        • Lanthanide 14.2.1.1

          Having a look at that website, personally I think the Fraemohs houses are hideous looking.

    • felix 14.3

      All the better if it’s local, t.

    • MrSmith 14.4

      Because they are expensive and cold as charity to live in. How would I know? well I built the one I live in thats how.

  15. Lanthanide 15

    While thinking about German engineering standards for buildings, have a look at this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_house

    “In Ireland, it is calculated that a typical house built to the Passive House standard instead of the 2002 Building Regulations would consume 85% less energy for space heating and cut space-heating related carbon emissions by 94%”

    Now these buildings are not cheap to construct off the bat, but over the lifetime do provide substantial energy savings. The problem in this case is that it might be the government who was stumping up the cost, but it’d be the private occupant that received the benefit.

    This could be somewhat ameliorated if a special rates levy were applied to these houses such that while you spent less on energy, it would mostly (maybe 60-80%) be made up for in increased rates. You’d still be saving money, but more importantly the money you would have spent on energy would go to the council to use for other purposes.

    • grumpy 15.1

      In Germany houses are designed with a heat differential of 32K and a heatloss of 35W/m2..

      In NZ we design to a heat differential of 20K and a heatloss of 75 – 80W/m2

  16. Tel 16

    Great post Marty. I applaud your can do attitude and only wish a company with the funds to develop a system such as HIB (I wonder if Fletcher reads The Standard?) would develop a similar system for New Zealand. My understanding is the Fletcher Wood Panel plant in Kumeu has been gradually reducing the product lines it manufactures, but at it’s heart many of the particle board type materials required to make a panel system emanate from there. Secondary machining of panels for dovetail elements could likely be done in house with some more plant investment. We could opt for NZ Wool as an insulation also.

    Unfortunately, I’m lead to believe the HIB system as it stands is too costly to import and we do not have/grow the raw material to directly copy the product under a licence agreement. It won’t surprise anyone to hear that our best timber stock is exported because timber companies make more money this way. This is going to become even more apparent when Japan starts to rebuild. The downside of this is we have poor timber for construction in NZ, with less growth rings in any given piece of timber compared to the same sized timber of 30 years ago. This results in poorer nail holding power, and because it is less dense a propensity to hold moisture more easily and hence be more vulnerable to mould/rotting. Timber companies have countered this with higher levels of LOSP pressure treatment, but recent government moves (lobbied by housing companies to lower costs?) have us heading back to using boron treatment for exterior wall elements.

    So the first hurdle to overcome is finding a suitably cheap local source of high quality timber. The German system uses some form of Lignin organic polymer treatment, and while I’m not fully conversant with the pro’s and con’s of using this, my first concern would be Lignin in our damp moist conditions might be like icecream to dry and wet rot spores, leaving the panels vulnerable to fungal attack. Those molecular biologists that the government are going to sack from NIWA could be put to good use, but pumping timber and our environment full of chemicals seems to be the default option nowadays.

    Thinking out loud here: Do we need some form of tax incentive for timber companies to produce high quality wood products in NZ? A well developed modular housing system developed for sub-tropical and tropical applications must surely have a market?

    The ductility of HIB is also something that may need to be adapted to NZ earthquake codes. I had a quick look at the info on the HIB site and it makes reference to a verhaltens beiwert (coefficient behavior) q=4, which checking with my engineer, this had no meaning to him, but he suggested that it might be similar to our NZS1170 structural ductility factor which is typically and ideally designed around a figure of µ1.25 (This means means the building is more flexible, not less).

    I’d happily work at half my hourly rate to help in the design and development of such a system for a NZ company, but as I watch the pigs fly over the forest beyond me I’m left wondering where all these mutant pigs originated from? :mrgreen:

    • KJT 16.1

      Timber is one of the many things we produce which you can buy cheaper offshore.

      For example. Until the big rise in the Ozzie dollar recently it was cheaper to import a fully made kitset of NZ radiata from Australia than to buy the same timber here.

      • Lanthanide 16.1.1

        This really doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense to me (and yes, I know it’s true).

        Can you come up with any justification or explanation for this?

  17. randal 17

    the pm and his trusty sidekick are too busy doing the financial deals with the insurers and the reinsurers to actually take any notice of the reality.
    only the money counts dont you know?

  18. KJT 18

    Why go to Germany for house designs.

    http://hybridhomes.co.nz/
    http://www.victoria.ac.nz/architecture/default.aspx
    http://www.eehnz.com/
    http://www.strawbuilthomes.com/?gclid=CP3j1O_C1KcCFUSfpAodu3nZ-A

    Just a few of many local economic, modular and/or eco housing.

    Many NZ kitset houses still in use in Darwin. We took a whole lot up there after their big cyclone some time ago.

    • Tel 18.1

      Why go to Germany? I think we can achieve a low cost simple modular system in NZ, and yet the German system has many things in it’s favour: Most German made goods go through a rigorous research into life cycle costs, and given the simplicity, low waste inherent in HIB the cost benefit ratio would be second to none for an entry level home if supported by our main industry players, but given the current duopoly track record we’re all fucked.

      Several of the sites linked on this thread have some good ideas, but pretty much all are based on flawed logic and even poorer execution. When I read “it is rather a system for building a sustainable home that minimizes the waste associated with traditional house building while also keeping the cost at a sensible and affordable level” I just read blah blah marketing blah blah. For the most part all the housing companies in NZ are under delivering, and over priced, and wrapping your product in the word “sustainable” (usually as a reason to pay more!), does not make it so. The only thing that gets close to sustainable is to recycle and reuse. Some European modular systems incorporate salvaged material, and offcuts from the manufacturing process to make composite panel systems, this way reducing manufacturers waste. NZ is still stuck in a bespoke housing mode, delivering raw materials to sites and all the energy costs associated with it’s execution to a built object. We seem to be stuck in some warped Three Little Pigs fairy tale; Bricks and Straw(bale) are certainly not a good idea (rigid), but if the Big Bad Wolf came knocking at my door made of sticks, he’d be going home hungry.

  19. Treetop 19

    Does anyone know if the wet winter weather is going to disturb the land? I think that in hilly or rocky areas this may cause land slipage. Thankfully Christchurch is mostly flat.

  20. MrSmith 20

    Average price of a house in ozzy approximately 500 k Aust$! sorry about that kids.

  21. MrSmith 21

    Of-course we could deregulate the building industry, now theirs a novel idea! NOT. The last National government did just that. The cost about 11.5 billion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leaky_homes_crisis or has everyone forgotten this all ready.

    Yes thats right 11.5 billion so some of the Nats& there mates could get rich at your expense and they are doing the same thing again people, but the bill if they stay in power will be a lot more this time around.

    • Tel 21.1

      By bill, don’t forget all the “fins” circulating in the water in the form of legal representation costs, because under National it’s going to be a doozy.

  22. steve 22

    Well Marty, I will not bother to read all of the leftie bullshit today about Christchurch. They have great ideas and plans using other people’s money. The experts know best.
    The righties bullshit is the same. Everyone has this rebuild/resore idea. Sure do it. But do it in another place, not on a sinking river pan.
    When people start spending their own money about where to build and live, Christchurch is not on the menu unless it is moved.
    Sad that the rebuilding seems to be a Government problem and the Goverment should pay.
    The payers are ALL of the private sector taxpayers in NZ

    • Colonial Viper 22.1

      Sad that the rebuilding seems to be a Government problem and the Goverment should pay.

      Yeah its a Government problem.

      Do you know why? Because in this situation, the free market will not provide a workable result which will give us a lasting and sustainable community.

      So if the market isn’t going to do it, the Government must.

      It’s not being Leftie or Righty, its simply acknowledging that market forces are extremely limited in their application, and that multiple individualistic profit motives will not always add up to optimum community good.

    • Rosy 22.2

      “The payers are ALL of the private sector taxpayers in NZ”
      That’s a narrow band isn’t it? Public servants don’t pay tax? and to pre-empt bureaucracy living of the backs of hard-working private sector workers – those public servants include police, doctors, nurses, teachers, civil defence etc. Insurers will also pick up a big chunk of the cost, I reckon.

      The payers are ALL taxpayers in NZ, and, as it their function, the insurers of Christchurch properties and councils. FIFY

    • Treetop 22.3

      steve I was a bit more delicate about the land: see 19. You may not have seen 19 as you write “I will not bother to read all the leftie bullshit today about Christchurch.”

    • MrSmith 22.4

      Steve: All this whining about the cost to the tax payer. I payed my insurances all my life and a portion of this was to insure me for this exact scenario, if the Goverment didn’t have enough insurance well that should be layed at there feet but it’s a little late to be whining about the cost now.
      Also moving CHCH ?? so working on that logic we better move wellington as well in fact the whole country is only here dew to two massive tectonic plates colliding, maybe we should just all piss of to Aust or another planet, if only I could afford to move to Aust, although I do remember someone saying that it will be a speedy recovery and we will be catching Aust in no time.

  23. grumpy 23

    I try to find some merit in this idea but as one who has just returned from Poland, Ukraine and (slightly better) the Czech Republic, I have seem what happens when socialists impose their ideas about what people should live in.

    Rows and rows of 50’s era concrete square apartment blocks – the destroyer of individualism (which after all, was the idea). Certainly not what we want in New Zealand

    • Colonial Viper 23.1

      grumpy don’t be ridiculous, Governments can approve multiple house designs and multiple colour schemes very easily.

      I mean, city councils do it every day.

      Further, no one seems to complain that just about every McDonalds in our globalised capitalist economy looks the same as every other McDonalds. Nor every Toyota Corolla being virtually identical in appearance (ignoring a slightly different paint job and superficial trim differences).

      Rows of cut and paste shacks have nothing to do with socialism, socialism is for the people and if the people want 20 different floor plans each with a choice of 20 different decors and colours, so it shall be.

    • RedLogix 23.2

      Rows and rows of 50′s era concrete square apartment blocks – the destroyer of individualism

      I trust the journey was an interesting one grumpy.

      I know that’s exactly how these buildings look from the outside. But on the inside they are completely different. Oddly enough many families went to great efforts to make their own apartments colourful, unique and warm. You only discover this if you actually get to live, or preferably work, in a city for a few months.

      The range of furniture and appliances available was fairly narrow, which restricted choice in one way…. but in another I found that this mattered for nothing. Once you got to know these people as family I discovered a whole other life and strength you’d never suspect from walking in the streets.

      Certainly the grim Soviet-era stereotype is evident in public, but in private the people do have their own wholly different, lively and personable lives.

      • grumpy 23.2.1

        Yeah, they make do with what they’ve got – a triumph of the human spirit and what finally defeated communism.

        One thing though, they all have effective (not efficient) central heating!

  24. Drakula 24

    What peeves me off a bit is the way people use the word ‘socialism’ a bit too freely without giving it too much thought. What Grumpy is talking about is the result of an ex-communist system that tried to bann private ownership of land altogether.

    Socialism is about preserving the ‘commons’ like industry that would monopolise to be replaced by national services eg. like who should own water? electricity? etc In some ways these public services can benifit private businesses.

    Therefore socialism and enterprise can live side by side.

    I didn’t want to hijack the thread but I felt that it was an important point to make.

    • grumpy 25.1

      Once again Trotter makes some good points. One of the best things about the old MOW was as a major regional employer – now replaced with non productive unemployment.

      Under the MOW, those lazy young men and women in the Eastern suburbs, sitting around drinking beer while watching the student volunteers work, would be gainfully employed doing the work too!

  25. fatty 26

    Nice one Grumpy…do you always think what Fox news tells you to think?

    “Rows and rows of 50′s era concrete square apartment blocks – the destroyer of individualism (which after all, was the idea). Certainly not what we want in New Zealand”

    Individualism and collectivism mean many things…to cherry pick the worst aspect of one is simplistic…ask a family in the East of Christchurch (who are living in a tent and shitting in their back yard) what they think of ‘individualism vs collectivism’ and how those ideologies are affecting them in various ways.

    If ever there is a time to defend individualism, now is not it.

    • Kevyn Miller 26.1

      Grumpy has definitely gone astray with his reasoning. The idea was not unique to the iron curtain countries and had little to do with destroying individualism. It was all about solving the housing crisis in the fastest and cheapest manner, was pioneered by the Germans in the 1920s (as modernism) and adopted most skillfully by the Swedes in their million home program in the 1960s (as minimalism). A lack of imagination and reliance on concrete led to the label brutalism coming into use in the 1970s. The attractive private sector approach on the Gold Coast and Daytona Beach may not directly comparable as they target different income groups with different abilities to pay for accessories like style and individuality.

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