Steel house framing set for growth in rebuild

By Christopher Adams

Photo / APN
Photo / APN

Manufacturers of steel house framing say the Christchurch rebuild offers a potentially lucrative market.

Following the February 22 earthquake, the Government said up to 10,000 homes had been so badly damaged they would have to be demolished, which will drive demand for new housing in the region that is still being plagued by aftershocks.

"Steel framing performs really well in earthquakes," said Todd Forsyth, general manager of East Tamaki-based Rollforming Services (RFS).

He said New Zealand's National Association of Steel-Framed Housing had tested steel framing on a "shake table" at an Australian university.

"It performed extremely well and proved what we already knew about steel framing in that it does absorb a lot of the impact shock from earthquakes and produces a very safe and very strong structure. Even after it's been shaken it has the ability to [withstand] further quakes."

But Forsyth said it could be difficult convincing people to give steel a try.

"Timber's been the way building's been done in New Zealand for 150-odd years," he said. "To try and change people's opinions overnight - it's just not going to happen."

RFS uses machines designed and built by its parent company - Howick Engineering - to manufacture framing to building specifications.

The framing can be trucked from Auckland and assembled anywhere in New Zealand, Forsyth said, adding that framing for three to four houses could fit on the back of one truck.

He said the firm was working with Christchurch-based builders, developers and retailers that used its products to make sure it made the most of the rebuild market.

A machine would be sent to Christchurch to manufacture framing there once aftershocks eased, Forsyth said.

The new kid on the block, Christchurch's Vanson Frame & Truss, has the rebuild market at its doorstep.

Van Heerden, managing director of the Hornby-based company, said the earthquakes had provided a huge opportunity for the three-year-old firm.

Millions of dollars had been spent on research and development to get Vanson's product ready to hit the market, he said.

Heerden said steel framing had a lot to offer the rebuild, including speedier construction than traditional methods.

- NZ Herald

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