New houses built in southern China are being craned on to sites in Auckland and sold from $650,000 each.
Newly founded house-building specialist Neilston Group showed off the technique when modules for the first three terrace homes were taken from the Ports of Auckland and lifted into place at Hobsonville Point.
Tony Houston, managing director of Neilston, said his company had spent the past three years developing the systems to enable it to build most of the homes away from the site.
"The houses are built in Guangzhou. You can't do it here because it's too expensive. We've set the business up for affordable homes, particularly Kiwibuild. We've been working with Kianga Ora and HLC for the last three years.
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"Only around 385 Kiwibuild houses have been built in the last three years, yet the rest of the market built 75,000 houses in that time. Why? Because you can't buy the labour and materials for the numbers required to build affordable houses en masse," he said.
Houston, who previously owned G.J. Gardner franchises on the North Shore and in West Auckland, said he was unconcerned about buying the units during the pandemic.
"There's no scientific proof the virus can travel on goods. It takes 17 to 23 days for our goods to arrive in New Zealand," he said.
The factory in China had the capacity to make New Zealand's entire annual housing stock in just 12 weeks, he said. New Zealand currently produces around 35,000 residential new dwellings annually.
Houston would not name the Chinese business.
He said 500 to 1000 homes could be built annually using the system developed by his business where he works with wife Robyn, daughter of the late Ron Neil of the Neil Housing Group, which built many Auckland homes.
The new company name, Neilston, combines her surname with Houston's. Robyn's brother, Ron Neil, also works at Neilston as the management accountant.
Houston said the first units were being brought directly from the port to the sites.
The company is building 26 new homes at Hobsonville Point. Twelve will be the affordable Axis Series homes, starting from $650,000, he said. Neilston is building a further 130 places in Mt Roskill.
All three of the new Hobsonville Point homes are two-storey terrace houses on Nugget Ave near the Hobsonville Point Secondary School.
Each home is four modules: two 6m units downstairs and two 9m modules upstairs. The top modules are cantilevered over the lower.
Houston said: "If we built cars like we build houses, they'd cost $2m each.
"By manufacturing these homes off-site - in this case offshore - then transporting them in one simple movement on to their residential site, we can make cost savings – for example, avoiding the exorbitant price of building materials in New Zealand – and pass these savings on to home buyers. We can also reduce waste, given around 50 per cent of waste to landfill in New Zealand comes from the construction industry.
Neighbours and the community suffered less disruption with the prefab housing, he said.
"The large components are delivered by truck and crane, then a small number of tradespeople and craftspeople finish the home and landscaping. Gone are the months of buzz saws or jackhammers or other power tools next door, as well as numerous truck deliveries and other hazards," he said.
Modul's initial design is a two-storey, three bedroom, 1.5-bathroom home, comprising manufactured components delivered on to the site.
The homes have a multiproof consent from the Ministry of Building, Innovation and Employment and come complete with all fittings, finishing and appliances, double-glazed and insulated.
"New Zealand has a long tradition of format design and prefab building but Modul homes take this to a whole new level, both in terms of the quality of design and specification, as well as the efficiency of construction and price point," he said.
The roof on the new units was three times as thick as other new roofing products in New Zealand. Pipes were around a third thicker and the glazing exceeded New Zealand standards, Houston said.