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
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.