Shaun Rothery, Procurement and Innovation Manager (HLC), Neil Mayo, General Manager Finance Legal and Corporate Services (HLC), and Andrew Booker, General Manager Emergency Housing Response (Housing New Zealand), recently attended the 7th Guangzhou International Prefab House, Modular Building and Mobile House Fair. The group was keen to explore how Chinese innovation in the modular building space can help to address New Zealand’s urgent need for quality affordable housing and social housing.

China is a leader in the modular housing industry, which produces modular sections of homes at scale and delivers them to their intended site of use, where construction is completed. Modules are made of steel and built to dimensions that allow for maximum efficiency in shipping - but that’s where their similarity to shipping containers ends, explains Shaun. “Some people have a preconception that modular housing is basically shipping containers, but in fact this is a purpose-built, high quality housing product, used to great effect in many markets around the world.”

The modules are extremely rigid to withstand shipping, making them especially well suited to earthquake-prone New Zealand. They’re also very warm and energy efficient. The end result is a high quality affordable home delivered to a much shorter timeframe than any alternative construction methods. “The quality, price and speed is impressive” says Shaun. “Build time would be reduced by at least three months, allowing us to provide homes at the pace needed to meet New Zealand’s pressing affordable housing needs.”

One of Shaun’s aims during the visit was to assess whether the quality control processes in place will ensure the product remains well within the NZ Building Code. “It was good to see the product and the factories first hand. There’s nothing quite like touching the steel and talking to suppliers face-to-face.” Quality control processes have evolved to meet standards for multiple western markets, including the US, Europe and Australia. “New Zealand is an emerging market for modular construction, but we’re not reinventing the wheel - this is well-proven technology around the world.”

With initial investigations completed, HLC is now beginning the procurement process and building will begin in the near future. Says Shaun, “We have a pilot programme planned for Hobsonville Point, where our building partners will deliver modular homes as one part of our typology mix for our Axis Series of affordable housing. We’re looking forward to seeing how these homes are received by the Auckland market.”