Method speeds up construction for high-spec housing units.

One of the most astonishing responses to Auckland's housing crisis has seen a North Shore factory turning out multi-level housing units ready to be lived in almost as soon as they leave the manufacturer's floor.

In Lego-style but on a giant scale, 10 housing components are almost finished at the city's only high-rise house factory, each perched on 30 castor wheels ready to be pushed out the door, loaded on to 14m-long trucks, sped across the city and craned on to their sites.

Staff at ABT (Adaptive Building Technology) Construction's factory at 217 Archers Rd in the Wairau Park/Glenfield area can assemble a highly sophisticated three-level home within four to six weeks when it takes others many months.

By 10 to 12 weeks, all works are finished.

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William Carter, ABT's sales and systems general manager, said house-building factories were common overseas and have been talked about here for years. Auckland needed thousands of new houses annually and factories were the solution.

"We're the first factory of this type we're aware of," said Mr Carter, a steel frame specialist.

Nick Smith, Minister of Housing, and of Building and Construction, said from Chile more factories were needed. "The sort of technology being developed by ABT is part of the solution to New Zealand's housing challenges in that it involves scale and prefab construction as well as apartment-style design.

"New Zealand needs to get over its view of prefabs, associated with classrooms from the 1960s and 1970s, and realise the improved affordability of using standardised, offsite construction technology for modern and attractive homes."

Pamela Bell, chief executive of industry organisation PrefabNZ, also supports more pre-built construction businesses.

Mr Carter said the building sector was slow to respond to demand, land was expensive and ABT's Kiwi and Chinese owners were well aware of the Auckland Unitary Plan's demand for more intensive housing estates.

"This wasn't needed before now because Aucklanders wouldn't accept high-rise housing to this extent. But now its time has come and we're able to build a complete house here.

We were Gib-stopping and installing all the kitchens and bathrooms so the house was ready to walk into when it went on site. But that was holding things up here. We need the factory floor."

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From the outside, the factory looks much the same as any light industrial/commercial building.

But inside is a sight to gladden any local body politician's heart: a line of nearly finished houses, all assembled on a concrete floor, looking for all the world like a giant toy town or a mock housing estate.

They are being finished by about 10 staff who will next week get behind their creations and literally push them out the door.

ABT's Kings Terrace group - eight terraced houses for Narrow Neck - are expected to fetch more than $1 million each.

At the factory, another terrace group, each weighing 10 to 15 tonnes, has full wall linings up, pipes ready to be plumbed in and are fully wired.

William Carter said house-building factories were common overseas and have been talked about here for years. Photo / Doug Sherring
William Carter said house-building factories were common overseas and have been talked about here for years. Photo / Doug Sherring

Only the Gib-stopping, stairs, painting, kitchen and bathroom installations are needed. Each unit is designed to be like a shoe-box, stacked atop the next unit.

In the controlled, dry, well-lit atmosphere, the houses are being built from the floors up, their particle or chipboard flooring cut to a limited number of specified templates and placed on the wheels.

Strong, lightweight Axxis steel from New Zealand Steel has been cut and assembled into pre-fabricated walls, floors and ceilings by Frametek.

Those components are then delivered to ABT's factory, screwed into place, then lined with insulation before plasterboard or Gib-board goes up.

ABT Construction's work

• Kings Terrace stage one, 38 Regent St, Narrow Neck (completed).

• Unsworth Terrace, 147 Albany Highway (under construction)

• Units above 195 Khyber Pass Rd, Grafton (planned)

• Toilets on Great Barrier Island (planned)