Two new Auckland houses are being built in a west Auckland factory under conditions that seem more suited to the production of dolls' houses.

Made on site, the houses are ready to be put on trucks and transported to Waiheke Island via a car ferry and barge.

Dan Heyworth, chief executive of The Workshop Company, sees this as the future of the building industry.

He is currently developing a $600,000 three-bedroom 180sq m Onetangi house and a premium 20sq m $100,000 one-bedroom Sandy Bay pod with a sleeping loft for extra guests built at the Henderson factory.


Heyworth said the ready-made components, like new walls propped up inside the factory, made the company's workspace resemble a dolls' house assembly plant on a giant scale.

"But what this really is, is components of houses manufactured in a controlled environment ready to be installed on-site. The entire house is built here - windows, roof, all electrical, plumbing, bathrooms, kitchens. Once we get to the site, it will only take about four weeks to finish," he said.

"One of the great advantages of the factory is it's dry, it's clean, you're working on the ground - even the roofs are being constructed on the ground so it's much more productive in terms of labour - the logistics of running a factory rather than a site... it's easier to get deliveries in and out, trucks in and out. You pay more for transport obviously but there are savings in terms of labour, trades and materials. So it's a much more controlled, safer environment to build in.

"We're going to do about 20 to 30 [houses] a year [here]. The factory is serving two purposes: the first is to build houses and the second is to look at different building systems."

Three houses have been built there so far, but he has much grander plans for large-scale production in the ex-Alloy Yachts factory with an internal stud height of around 20m and doors which open a space around 20m, enabling large-scale construction within.

Gantries formerly used in boat building are now moving housing components.

Heyworth wants to build new Housing NZ Corporation homes and some of the 100,000 KiwiBuild places housing minister Phil Twyford plans during a 10-year period.

To satisfy demand, Heyworth said he needed a much bigger, far more expensive, sophisticated and efficient factory. The Henderson premises could be a prototype of a much bigger venture.

"About $200m of capital is needed to build an industrial factory, turning out 5000 houses a year to satisfy demand," he said. Asked who would do that, he said: "I would. That's the long-term goal. We need to be doing this on a grand scale."

Alloy Yacht builders inside the factory a few years ago. Photo/Chris Loufte
Alloy Yacht builders inside the factory a few years ago. Photo/Chris Loufte

The Henderson premises are owned by Goodman Property Trust. They are at The Concourse near the north-western motorway and near Keith Hay Homes. Heyworth said he had not bought expensive technology or equipment. His overheads were around $100,000 annually, including the factory rent, he said.

Delegates at CoLab 2018, a national conference on prefabricated or off-site buildings, will next week visit the factory as part of its site tour programme.

The conference is being run by Prefab New Zealand, headed by Pamela Bell.