Innovation in construction
The New Zealand construction sector has a productivity challenge. Over the past 25 years the industry has ranked the second highest in GDP growth, but only ninth in labour productivity growth. Innovation is vital to increase our productivity and for us to achieve a productive and profitable sector, we need to embrace new ways of constructing.
This webinar was recorded on 18 May 2022. It includes speakers from KiwiRail, Offsite Design, Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities and QOROX.
This video is a direct recording of the webinar, which includes footage of the speakers as they talk. It also features some slides and video footage interspersed throughout the webinar.
Gordon Harcourt: Nau mai, nau mai haere mai ko Gordon Harcourt tōku ingoa. Gidday, kia ora, I'm Gordon Harcourt. I'm the Communications Lead for the Construction Sector Accord.
Welcome to today's webinar, all about innovation. This the latest in our "Towards High Performance" webinar series. Now, the New Zealand construction sector has a productivity problem. We all know that. One stat showed over nearly 25 years back to 1996, construction second highest ranked in terms of GDP growth but ninth ranked for productivity growth.
So, how do we get productivity higher? Well, one word obviously, is a big part of that, "Innovation." For a productive profitable sector, we've got to embrace new methods. Yes, there is cool stuff here and there but it struggles to break through. We need an ecosystem where new tools, products, practices, technologies are constantly being developed, tested, shared and widely adopted within the industry. Now, today we have got people who are doing all of those things. We've got KiwiRail, Kāinga Ora, Offsite Design and QOROX, the 3D printed concrete pioneers. Before we hear from all here is a reminder of what the Accord is all about.
Logo: Construction Sector Accord.
Shots of construction sites and construction workers.
Gordon Harcourt: Construction touches us all in some way, and its success is crucial for a better Aotearoa. The Accord was launched in April 2019 to try and address the many issues affecting the sector.
Shots of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Construction Sector Accord launch in 2019.
Jacinda Ardern: The construction sector Accord, is the first year in creating a strong partnership between government and industry.
Shots of the Construction Sector Accord launch in 2019.
Shots of Jacinda Ardern at the launch.
Text on screen: Accord Goals – increase productivity, raise capability, improve resilience, restore confidence, pride and reputation.
Gordon Harcourt: And the partnership is to create a high-performing construction sector for a better New Zealand. The Accord has big goals, increased productivity, raise capability, improve resilience, restore confidence, pride, and reputation.
Shots of construction sites and construction workers.
Gordon Harcourt: The Accords work is about driving long-term culture change, from increasing diversity in construction, to reducing carbon emissions. We want to see better business performance, better leadership, better health and safety culture, including mental health, fairer risk allocation. We want to see a safer, more successful, more sustainable construction sector. By working together, we can achieve that vision.
Logo: Construction Sector Accord.
Video clip ends.
Gordon Harcourt: So, innovation and first up today, Derek Jannings and he is the Digital Engineering Programme Manager at KiwiRail. Kia ora Derek.
Derek Jannings: Great to be here and thanks for having me.
Gordon Harcourt: So, KiwiRail's digital engineering programme, it's on a mission to deliver various innovations to help digitise KiwiRail and its supply chain for construction. It's about increasing collaboration and reducing construction risks on site. Firstly, Derek, tell us a bit more about how the programme is being used to drive innovation within KiwiRail.
Derek Jannings: Yeah, so obviously KiwiRail is currently under a watershed period of investment and we've got a mountain of work to do and reasonably short amount of time. In order to do that, we have to be a bit more innovative about some of the things we do. And so that's really driven us to scale up some of the initiatives within KiwiRail at the pace we're doing them. So, the DE programme is kind of the home for good ideas and we make that accessible to everyone, all different parts of our business. So, we've got our capital works business and other people in our business that touch projects, but often might not get as much input as usual.
We make sure that we bring them on the journey and if they've got smart ideas, we bring that to the table and into the DE programme and see where they can be scaled. For us, a good example of that is we have a lot of risk when we get on site and we are working in the rail corridor. So, because it's a live environment, we get very limited access. And so, we we're in that environment, we have to be on it and get the work done in the time required.
One of the key things we've done is we've invested in a collaborative environment called Revizto. And so that enables all of our design teams and internal design teams to come into the one space, coordinate their design in the digital world. And for us that reduce the risks in the physical world when we're actually on site. So, it lets us be more in control and gives us more confidence about what's happening in the design and how that's being coordinated. So, the other part of that is KiwiRail has taken the kind of bold step to provide all of the licenses for that software.
For us, we provide licenses to both our internal teams and our external teams, because we don't want that to be a barrier to people having access to the information. So, that's 3D and 2D information.
And for us that means a license is a lot cheaper than some of the cost of when things go wrong on site. So yeah. that's a good example of kind of the things we're doing.
Virtual reality video of Trentham to Upper Hutt railway line.
Gordon Harcourt: Now I've seen the video on this one, your digital shields project. This is seriously cool. Tell me more about it.
Derek Jannings: Yeah, sure. So, the digital shields was something that came out of the BIM pilot. And so, the BIM pilot for us was where we kind of started doing digital engineering and that was the sort of genesis of the digital engineering programme. So, again, speaks to, we need to be more productive, but also, we don't have a lot of access to the rail corridor and we need to keep our people safe.
The way the technology works is it brings together a bunch of different things. BIM models, GPS, and the digger's computer and hydraulic system. The Digger knows where it is on site. It connects to the GPS. And what we've done is we've modelled 3D model digital shields that cover the safe zones in the rail corridor. When the digger moves around, if it is to come in contact with that digital shield, it then locks out the hydraulics, meaning that the Digger can't come in contact with the rail corridor.
So, that's something that was trialled on Trentham to Upper Hutt Project in Wellington. And over the last 12 months, we've been going through the processes of all the documentation and all the other bits and pieces to scale that up and make it part of our BAU for our business. The next two big projects that are currently using it. The Plimmerton upgrades down in Wellington. and then and then the Wiri to Quay Park project in Auckland.
Video of construction work beside railway tracks.
Shots of construction workers in excavators on site.
Graphics on screen showing KiwiRail's digital shield around railway tracks.
Shots of trains moving on railway tracks.
Gordon Harcourt: So, what are the key outcomes for you?
Derek Jannings: I guess everything we did under the BIM pilot proved the value of scaling the DE programme across our capital works portfolio. So, for us, it was kind of four key objectives. It was store data in one place. And that led to us developing our own common data environment, reduced risks in construction. So, that was where our collaborative environment Revizto came into play. And that's sort of what I was speaking to around coordinator in the digital world before we go into the physical world. Produce really good as-built.
So, we know that when we're doing capital works projects, we've got a massive opportunity to capture some really good data about our assets that will be used well beyond those projects. Typically, the industry is not so great at capturing as-built data and handing that over to asset owners. And that's just for a number of reasons. So, we are really working in that space to develop that information.
Gordon Harcourt: Why is it important for agencies like KiwiRail to lead innovation and change?
Derek Jannings: There's a couple of aspects to that. Ultimately someone like us KiwiRail where a state-owned enterprise, we are spending Kiwi's monies. And so, we want to do that in a way that uses that money efficiently and gets the right outcomes. The other side to it is being in an agency and a client. We have the ability and the privilege and the responsibility to kind of set the speed and direction for innovation and the ability to work with the supply chain collaboratively to get the right outcomes. We know that when clients procure things in a certain way and ask for change, the industry really responds. So, it's something that we've really got our own I think, as agencies.
Gordon Harcourt: Derek, what's next for KiwiRail in the innovation space?
Derek Jannings: There's a few things on the go. We will continue to do the fundamentals data. That's essentially getting more consistent and accurate data about our assets. So, we can do some smart things with that data, but there are a few things we have on the go that will kind of change the way people interact with an asset. One of those key things is gamification. We're doing a lot of work around bringing information into gaming environments so that people can interact with it in a different way.
We have a lot of stakeholders, both internal and external that have to be consulted with and need to be consulted with, to get their input into things. And traditionally, they would often get a technical drawing and they might not be from a technical background. And so, their input might get lost in translation, or what has been asked of them might get lost in translation. And so that can result in things not coming to fruition and challenges later on.
One thing we've been trialling with the IX project down in Wellington is we've brought the design into a gaming engine. And then we are using that gaming engine to interact with different people and show them design. We can put things on the fly in the environment in there. We can put in temporary roads and cranes and things like that and show them what the impact would be while we're doing that and get their feedback on that.
Virtual reality video of construction site.
Screen recorded video of KiwiRail gaming software.
Gordon Harcourt: Kia ora Derek, the digital shields thing is really cool. Search up KiwiRail and Beacons to have a look. Oh my God, I actually just said search up – blame my kids for that. By the way, here at the Accord, we're working with KiwiRail on an asset owner’s forum, and this is dedicated to creating consistency with digital change and data requirements across the sector.
The forum includes groups, such as Waka Kotahi, University of Canterbury, Let's get Wellington Moving and Auckland Transport. Look more generally, we're really pushing that sort of peer-to-peer horizontal learning network. That is the best way to learn. Anyway, next up Johann Betz from Offsite Design. Johann.
Johann Betz: Thanks for the introduction. Great to be here and looking forward to sharing some thoughts about offsite manufacturing and offsite construction.
Gordon Harcourt: So Offsite Design, a leader in designing and manufacturing, prefabricated timber buildings from small residential to multistory commercial. First Johann, offsite construction, why is so important for New Zealand?
Johann Betz: Prefabrication and offsite construction is really just the way how we are using the terms. It's really just a catch-all term for a whole bunch of methods, systems, techniques, technologies that allow us to build away from site. And assemble quickly onsite. And that means that in the way, how we're using these terms, we are covering a huge spectrum of types of construction panels, open and closed 3D volumetric modules, hold buildings and across all the materials.
So, concrete, timber, steel, et cetera. And that means it's actually quite difficult to talk with people about prefabrication and offsite construction. But what the common denominator is that essentially, we are building away from site and trying to assemble quickly on site.
The goals are raising productivity in construction, reducing project risk, increasing quality and precision that we can achieve and improved health and safety. So, that's in some of the other benefits that come with offsite construction. That's really why it's relevant for New Zealand is raise productivity and construction, raise quality in the built environment and improved health and safety.
Gordon Harcourt: Tell us about some of the projects you've got underway at the moment.
Johann Betz: Offsite Design is a consultancy as an office. We specialise in prefabricated timber and there's two big streams of work, there's residential and there's commercial. And in the residential space, that could be, that's typically light timber framed buildings from the family home right through to medium density. And our job there is to bridge the gap between the designers and the pre-fabricators and or contractors, builders on site. We take the design documentation and we break a design into panels or pods or chunks that can be prefabricated. Optimise that documentation produce fabrication model, and then produce the documentation for the factory. That's shop drawings and or machine files to drive robots. That's in the residential space.
In the commercial space, the projects we're working on there are typically mass timber, multi-storey. So, that's typically three, four storey public buildings. There's a number that we've involved in at the moment down here on the South Island. So, that's the Ashburton Civic Centre in being built in Ashburton at the moment, Polytech building down in Dunedin and another mass timber building. That's being going through that process at the moment through that pre-construction process, that's going to be built on the Agri Research Lincoln Campus.
But one thing to point out really is that Offsite Design, we are sort of on most of these projects, getting involved after the fact that the design has been finalised. And now the role we play then is that we coordinate and we find the details that are not producible in the factory are not buildable on site, and we help the pre-fabricator and the contractor through that.
So, that's the point I'd like to make is that very few projects in New Zealand are actually optimised for this offsite manufacturing and offsite construction process. And that's where New Zealand needs to do some work. Other types of work that Offsite Design gets involved in is consulting to the prefabricators. So, essentially helping prefabricators get into prefabrication. So, if there's a pre-fabricator and they want to start making things offsite, then we can do some consulting on their building system, help firm up that system and even sort of help with tailoring a factory around that.
Images of new builds by Offsite Design.
Text on screen: Hornby Workingmens Club, Nelson Airport Terminal, He Puna Taimoana.
Gordon Harcourt: So, offsite construction still relatively new here. What sort of barriers are there to see more of it?
Johann Betz: One of the biggest barriers is really that offsite projects really need to be optimised for manufacture and assembly. It's called DfMA, Design for Manufacture and Assembly. And it's really something that can't happen after design is finalised. It really needs to happen from day one during the earliest design stages to make sure that the design is A) producible and in the factory and B) it's optimised for assembly. It's impossible really to overstress the importance of that. It's also something that typically designers, architects, engineers can't do by themselves.
So, DfMA, Design for Manufacture and Assembly. It's really a collaborative process involving contractor and supplier early. That's a big barrier that the projects that are being prefabricated in New Zealand, very few of them are really optimised for true DfMA. Another is really, and that goes really hand in hand with the first point, is the procurement. And that's if design of a project of a prefab of an offsite project is separated from the construction contractually separated from that, then it's really impossible for that manufacturing or offsite assembly know how to flow through to the design stages.
So, instead of separating design from construction, contractually offsite projects thrive in procurement methods where design and delivery are integrated. Design built contracts, collaborative alliances, early contract, and supply involvement. These are sort of the models to get around that, to make sure that projects are informed early with that manufacturing know how and that assembly know how that is required for these types of projects. Essentially projects need to be optimised for pre-fabrication during the design stage. And that's sort of the biggest barrier.
That's really particularly true for the commercial multi-storey type projects in the residential space for the family home or medium density, where we see a bit of movement in New Zealand at the moment. One of the barriers is really a lack of standards. And I need to explain that because by that I don't mean to be clear. I don't mean any standardised floor plans or standardised architecture, but what I mean is a lack of OSM systems that are being applied here. So, there's a smorgasbord of OSM systems out there that the industry has come up with and is trying to push, but because there's quite a variety out there it's actually quite difficult for large developers and designers to optimise for one or the other. And if they do, they automatically almost eliminate the other ones.
What really New Zealand would benefit from is a standardisation in this space and an analogy that I'd like to use there is if you're thinking about the way, how New Zealand houses are built at the moment like timber framed using NZS 3604 as a standard, in some ways we require the same thing, just an OSM version of that. If we do 3604 type residential buildings as an offsite fabricated. In an offsite fabricated process, well, what does OSM 3604 look like? There's no need for New Zealand to have 10 different types of approaches to close light timber frame panels. In fact, it just confuses designers. Complicate it for council. And it just complicates things. But again, to be clear, I'm not proposing to standardise architecture and floor plans here. No one wants that no one wants cookie cutter. I'm proposing to standardise the OSM systems behind this typology light timber frame, as an example.
Graph showing process or Design for Manufacture and Assembly.
Text on screen: Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA). Idea – design – knowledge transfer – manufacture (off-site) – assembly (on-site) – in service.
Text on screen: NZS3604 Timber-framed buildings. Provides methods and details that are used to design many NZ timber-framed houses and small buildings, including many residential decks.
Gordon Harcourt: And this is, I guess, a step in the right direction, last year, the government passed a bill streamlining the consenting process for offsite modular building. New voluntary certifications scheme, where manufacturers who meet certain requirements, can access certificates that cover their complete design and manufacturing process. Will that make a difference for businesses like yours?
Johann Betz: Oh yeah. The modular component manufacturer scheme. So, definitely a step in the right direction and quite a big achievement for a small country like New Zealand. And actually, at that point, I'd like to give a bit of credit there to Scott Fisher and offsite NZ, or formally prefab NZ just for doing excellent work, sort of corralling the industry and doing some lobbying there with the government. So, definitely a good step in the right direction. What essentially allows prefabricators to do is to certify their systems, their processes, and receive content based on certificates for these. On their projects, rather than having to go through consenting and design on everyone on their projects and getting every panel or module inspected by building inspector. So, that's good.
What it allows is every prefabricator to essentially certify their systems. What it doesn't address is one of the barriers I've mentioned in the previous questions, and that is that broad smorgasbord of systems we have out there. So, in a next step, New Zealand would benefit from a bit more standardisation in that space. And that really goes then back to that point of standardisation I've made before. But overall, definitely good step in the right direction. I haven't really seen that come through to industry and I think the bill is still... Or the content is still in consultation phase, but I'm looking forward to seeing who's picking it up, this certification scheme and see the benefits of it.
Gordon Harcourt: What's your advice for others who are looking to move into offsite manufacturing?
Johann Betz: There's a number of various parties involved, I guess. Advice to contractors and builders is in particular, the ones of the commercial mass timber structures is get involved early. Make sure that the project you are signing up for is really optimised for DfMA and is well coordinated and get involved there.
If you're unsure about that, if the design is finalised and no pre-fabricator or the project hasn't been optimised for DfMA, then you're really just signing up for a black box. And who knows how risky and difficult this is going to be to pull off as an offsite project. That's to the contractors, get involved, make sure that your projects are optimised for DfMA for manufacturing, assembly. Advice to pre-fabricators is optimise or develop your product from product to process.
So, instead of setting up a great big factory, and then trying to work out what you can do with it, it's really the correct way to go about it is really the other way around identify a product, clearly define that product, clearly develop a system that you want to pursue. And only then you can really tailor the factory around that really from product to process. So, that's my advice for pre-fabricators and finally, government OSM offsite construction, offsite manufacturer really is an excellent route to increase productivity in building and construction. What's important. There is that the procurement reflects the needs of these types of projects that are integrated delivery that I've hinted at so that these projects are conceived in a design build type environment where the designs get optimised.
For offsite, prefabricators will require continuity of demand for their factories. Government has a role to play there in terms of providing this, some continuity of demand, some forward planning certainty for these pre-fabricators. And finally, advice for government is to help with some of the standardisation that I think is relevant that OSM 3604, that I've hinted at by standardising some of these systems, we would gather more critical capacity and momentum rather than fragmenting the OSM landscape into these niche boutique solutions that each struggle on their own. Again, this is standardising systems, not floor plans. Yeah. But otherwise, offsite is excellent way to increase productivity, reduce risk on projects and increase the quality as well of our built environment.
Gordon Harcourt: Kia ora Johann. You go had some pretty exciting stuff in there.
Staying with offsite, but from a designer and builder to a big client, Kāinga Ora. Rohan Bush.
Rohan Bush: Thank you very much for having me. I'm really pleased to be part of this.
Gordon Harcourt: So, Rohan, why is Kāinga Ora investing in offsite and prefabricated construction?
Rohan Bush: There's lots of different ways to answer that question but let me start off by saying that as new Zealand's largest housing provider Kāinga Ora Homes and Communities really has a government mandate to lead change in the construction industry. That means that we must be really at the forefront of understanding where the innovation and the progressive actions and opportunities, which will enable us to build more homes are and to trial those and see if we can get those benefits and then share what we learned from that, with others in the industry. I think the wider context is that, and you may be aware of this through the media, that the current waiting list for public housing is at a record high. That means there's about 25,000 people who are on MSDS housing register at the moment.
We desperately need innovation for Kāinga Ora to deliver more quality homes. Particularly at a faster rate and homes that really deliver a high-quality outcome for the people who'll be living in those homes and the communities that they're in. And then we also recognise that it can bring wider benefits to the construction industry. I think that some of the constraints that we are seeing within the traditional build methods part of the industry are very real. We are seeing that in our construction programmes and I'm sure others are experiencing that. We need to be able to get the benefits of both the traditional build methods and the offsite methods just to meet the demand. And we have confidence that the offsite method can deliver for us. We've been using that for the last few years. And currently we've got about 15% of our build programme, either under construction or in the design phase. Use some kind of offsite manufacturing techniques.
We already know that these building homes can be built faster and particularly installed on site faster, which is really important when you've got neighbours who we are disturbing with our construction, the quicker we can get in, get out and more importantly, move customers in the better. I think the other aspect is if you can move into a highly repeatable use of offsite, you get less variables, there's just streamlining of the whole process. And then of course there are other benefits which are also important to us. We are really trying hard to reduce our construction waste and using offsite manufactured techniques. You've just got a built-in benefit there because you are controlling everything in a factory environment. And then there's other benefits. You know, we see health and safety benefits overseas, where there are less people working in an onsite environment out in the weather and you're just able to control and manage the build process a lot more.
Timelapse video of Kāinga Ora's Blockhouse Bay build in Auckland.
Gordon Harcourt: Hey, I've been dying to find out about this stuff. Part of your offsite strategy is using prefabricated bathroom and laundry pods. So, you know, fully built, whack them in, how does that work?
So, yeah, lots of reasons for us, we've been pretty clear that this is a direction of travel we want to take, we launched our offsite strategy at the end of last year. And in that we made a commitment that we wanted to scale up our use of offsite manufactured homes by about 20% a year. It's really important to us that growth is sustainable, both for individual companies and for the sector as a whole. We work currently with about 18 of New Zealand offsite, manufactured suppliers. And we are engaging with probably double that. We do want to talk to any suppliers out there who think they've got capacity and might be able to supply to us.
Rohan Bush: Yes. So, this is something that's underway right now at Kāinga Ora. And it's really a research and development programme. So, it does real homes that we're building for people to live in. But what we've done is that we've looked at and we've used different combinations of offsite manufacturing technologies. And these have included something that is called bathroom pods, basically just a whole bathroom built off site, and then craned in and slotted into place within the apartment. And in this R&D programme, we've used bathroom pods from a number of different suppliers. New Zealand based Concision here in Christchurch, where I am at the moment Into Pod who are Sydney based and Sync who are Melbourne based.
So, they've all been included in a trial across four different build projects. And one of these in Blockhouse Bay in Auckland, and built by Miles Construction, our build partner for that project. This is a three-level apartment block. It's got 18 homes in it. Completed last year. And each of the units, each of the homes has got a bathroom pod that was supplied by Concision. And then the project also incorporates something called cross laminated timber panels. Those 100% renewable timber panels. And it was really importantly for us as well. Also, the first project, our first OSM project that achieved the seven Homestar rating. What we're trying to do with these pilot projects is really evaluate and then evaluate these different technologies and combinations of build methods, learn the lessons, and then move them into other parts of our programme.
Right now, for the bathroom pods, we're in the evaluation phase and really using that to make the decision about whether this is something we want to roll out into our wider programme. And importantly, we are looking at it certainly from a construction point of view, but also from the customer point of view, how are these working out for the customer? Are they any different from a bathroom which might have been built on site and looking to make a really informed decision about our use of those in the future.
Images of bathroom pod projects.
Gordon Harcourt: Okay. Key lessons, key insights so far?
Rohan Bush: I think one of the first things that we've learned is to not try and fit a square pig into a round hole. Everything that we've all done in the housing delivery system or construction system in the past has been oriented towards building on site, a more traditional building approach. And when it comes to offsite manufacturing, what we've learned is you really need to start in a different place, particularly if you want to get those benefits that I was talking about earlier. So, for us, a key insight has been to start with a standalone offsite manufactured programme, and then to build our housing delivery system around that build methodology.
There are just some really key differences in terms of the flow of the process, when you need to get the manufacturer, supplier of the homes involved in the process. And if you don't make some of those key moves early on, you really come unstuck and all the benefits of time go out the window because you end up spending a lot of time going backwards through the process. I think one of the other things that's been a learning for us as part of government is that there really needs to be a whole of government.
Well, certainly the parts of government that have a relationship and can benefit from OSM around this particular subject and that we need to engage with industry. And we do this through Offsite New Zealand, which is the organisation that represents the offsite industry. And so, we've been joining up with certainly ministry of education. Who've had an offsite manufacturing programme for a while in terms of the schools that they built. Department of corrections and department of defence both have a need to build housing and they both using offsite to different levels.
So, we are bringing a joined-up conversation between ourselves and with MBS as the regulator. And they've got, some really important work happening in terms of building regulations and offsite manufactured product. And with MSD, they've been looking at the skills aspect and training aspects in relation to OSM. So, it's a really multidimensional conversation just within government. And then we need to be having that real partnership and collaboration approach with the sector. Really so that we can work collaboratively and that the sector has confidence, particularly in terms of sometimes the really significant investments that need to be made in the factories and establishing the plans to produce these houses and also to bring on and train staff.
We've learned that the conversation needs to be quite broad, that we need to be speaking directly to industry, but also to our colleagues in other parts of government. We think that there is really great potential for offsite manufactured homes to be a really big player in the future in the New Zealand market. But we want that growth to be really sustainable. It's really important to us that we are part of a successful long-term approach to offsite manufactured homes in the future. And we want to use the scale that we have through our housing programmes to be a really positive. And I think informed part of that, we want to be very intentional in terms of how we move this forward.
Gordon Harcourt: What else is in the future for Kāinga Ora around innovation? What's next?
Rohan Bush: There's a couple of really exciting things that I'd love to share with you in terms of what's coming up for us. And one of those is the partnership that we are developing with Callaghan Innovation. So, we have a shared goal. We both want to see a lot more innovation happening and being supported in the residential construction industry. We've decided to come together and work together on that. We both want to see both technical innovation and R&D, but also in terms of business model and the commercialization aspects of that innovation. I think we all agree that the industry has got some really significant challenges. And I think this is an innovation just for the sake of some fun, new things.
This is innovation to really help us solve some of the challenges that we've got. And particularly around our move towards lower carbon homes, we need innovation in that space to help us get their cost effectively. So, that's one thing. The other thing is a couple of our pilot projects.
Our newer pilot projects. I just wanted to mention. One of those, we call Bader Ventura and that's because it's on the corner of Bader and Ventura streets in Mangere in Auckland. So, this is under construction at the moment, and it's certainly for Kāinga Ora. It's our first passive house project, and that's going to, it's another of these three-story as we call them, walk up, apartment buildings, and we're targeting an eight Homestar rating.
And I think most excitingly the impact that it's going to have on our customers in terms of what they need to spend on heating and cooling is just dramatically reduced. We've calculated an 85% reduction in heating costs. So, just really significant. And then finally our latest pilot project, and probably our biggest, definitely our biggest, which we’re calling Kāinga Ngā Kāinga Anamata or homes of the future. And this has five separate buildings, all built almost identically, but using different construction technology.
So, one his primarily cross laminated timber. Then we have a light timber frame. We have a precast concrete, we have a light gauge steel. And then we have a hybrid which combines the light timber frame with the cross laminated timber. And we are targeting a nine Homestar rating with this one. And really, we are studying the heck out of it because we want to understand everything about how these different buildings perform, what they cost, how long they took us to build, the carbon and profile of all of them, the energy use profile, how the customers respond to them and all of these aspects. We are really keen to share with industry, because we can see we've got a really unique opportunity here to study a real building, a real construction process. And then how these homes are obviously, homes for people and we really want to understand how they work for the people who live in them.
Graphic showing Homestar rating system
Text on screen: New Zealand Green Building Council https://www.nzgbc.org.nz/homestar
Text on screen:
- 6 (60-69.9 points) Good standard
- 7 (70-79.9 points) Good standard
- 8 (80-89.9 points) Best practice
- 9 (90-99.9 points) Good standard
- 10 (100+ points) World-leading.
Gordon Harcourt: Kia ora Rohan, I feel as though we're going to have to come back to you in a year or so to find out about outcomes from these projects and your views on comparisons between the different methods.
Finally today Wafaey Swelim he's from 3D printed concrete specialist, QOROX.
Wafaey Swelim: Yeah, thanks for having me and for having this webinar.
Gordon Harcourt: So QOROX has some pretty lofty ambitions. They really want to revolutionise the construction industry through 3D printing. Wafaey tell us about the technology and how, why you brought it to New Zealand.
Wafaey Swelim: I came across 3D printing in 2018 and main reason why I went and investigated 3D printing because I was very frustrated by how we built overall. I lived in four countries around the world and all of them have the same problems and were very slow. We are not efficient. We have always a bad impact on the environment and we cannot... The way we build is not sustainable.
So, I came across 3D printing and I started investigating and took a lot of R&D almost two years of R&D to get the compliant to New Zealand building standard and testing in New Zealand. And I see that this has a massive potential of helping to fill up the gap between the supply and the demand either for housing or commercial builds. And also fill up a big gap in the civil and infrastructure.
Gordon Harcourt: And for the first time in New Zealand, I'm assured QOROX has constructed a hybrid timber and concrete house with 3D printed concrete walls. Sounds a bit unreal almost Wafaey, tell us about that.
Wafaey Swelim: We have actually two houses. The first one was internal walls. It's a solar passive house that we did in Huia. We completed this project. And the main reason why we use is because the walls are very unique and we're more economical and past it than traditional build. And there is another completed house, 3D printed house, internal and external walls and retaining walls, that were started to print. And it'll be in Paremoremo in Auckland, we got our building consents and we started to print the walls and they already started to pull the lab.
So, the main advantage where I get giving the client is that we are similar price cost to traditional construction, but we're a lot faster. And we're able to do a lot of things that tradition builds are not able to do. Like we have current walls, we have very unique design and the client, if they try to do something similar with traditional builds it would have been out of their budget and out for their building.
Drone footage of hybrid timber and concrete house with 3D printed concrete walls.
Images of plans for new 3D printed house.
Gordon Harcourt: How does it actually work? Tell us about the technology.
Wafaey Swelim: When we build houses or build commercial buildings or anything, we have two options. We can print the wall or the elements on site, or we can print them offsite. What we do is that we print the walls and these walls have structural cavities and insulation cavity for external walls. And for internal walls, it's just two layers.
And this way we can have one wall that comes to site or printed on site that's completed does not require any finishing from the inside or outside and is very durable and waterproof. So, what this gives is that the thermal mass of the concrete makes the house a lot more economical to heat and cool. And there's around 20% saving in energy consumption for heating concrete house, compared to timber freight house.
Video of 3D printing technology.
Shots of concrete being 3D printed.
Shots of workers.
Shots of 3D printed products.
Gordon Harcourt: Now, obviously this is seriously innovative stuff. How hard has it been to get it up and running in New Zealand? What sort of obstacles were there? How did you get over them?
Wafaey Swelim: Some of the challenges we faced were around how unique the building standard is in New Zealand. A lot of the testing and the design sort were available that were done overseas were not applicable for New Zealand. Some we had to reinvent the wheel a little bit. And the second thing is that the construction industry overall is one of these industries that when it's booming, nobody has time for innovation. And when it's bust, nobody has money for innovation.
And also, we're quite comfortable building the way we build. And the end result of that is... And there is no incentive for innovation. There's no people pushing the envelope. We're not trying to do more and more creative stuff. COVID have changed that a little bit because of the bottom next of the supply chain and the lack of resources and shortage of labour, all of this is putting pressure and forcing people to think outside of the box. So, I believe that this will help us move forward and we be getting more and more traction because every week I'm talking to new people, a lot more people are excited about the technology and they see a big potential for it in the market and how it could help the construction industry.
Gordon Harcourt: So, what's next? What do you think is the future of 3D printing technology in Zealand construction?
Wafaey Swelim: I see 3D printers in the future, working with builders to increase the productivity the same way we have diggers, the same way you have nail guns. You can produce more with less people and have better impact on the environment. What I see it is that it will not because the technology is so versatile. We can do sea walls, we can do bridges. We can do retaining rules. Whether we can do houses, we can do storm water systems.
We can do playgrounds, skate park ramps, landscaping, planters, and seeds. It is quite versatile. So, I see it as going to help every sector of the industry become more efficient and become more productive with the letter resources that they have. Being in Zealand that's far away in the world. Our buying power is very, very weak. Our resources are quite limited. We don't have infinite number of immigrants that coming to the country, like what happens in Europe and the United States. So, we need to do more with the little that we have, and this will be helping develop this gap.
Gordon Harcourt: And given your experience, have you got any advice to others in the sector who are looking to champion this sort of innovative approach?
Wafaey Swelim: If I give any advice to anyone is that you need to have a massive point of difference. You need to be going with something new, something that you believe that will have a fundamental change on the construction industry. And you have to look beyond what the building standard says, and you need to be able to fight, not fight your way through it, but be resilient and expect it to take a lot longer than what you think it will be. And it cost a lot more than you think it will be. But if I can do it, anyone can do it. I'm not a rocket scientist or anything like that. It is just matter of having a good idea and following through with it.
Gordon Harcourt: Kia ora Wafaey. And good luck. Thank you.
Thank you to all our speakers today. And of course, thank you to you for watching hope you've got some good stuff. Maybe even some inspiration. Any questions, email us, the address is on screen or visit the website and join us for the next in our series of "Towards High Performance" webinars. Hei konā mai.
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Improving productivity through innovation
While there are pockets of innovation happening across the construction industry, it’s still challenging for new ideas to break through. To improve our productivity, we need to create an innovation ecosystem, where new tools, products, practices and technologies are constantly developed, tested and shared across the industry.
As part of the Accord’s Towards High Performance webinar series, experts from government and industry shared case studies and advice about some of the technologies and practices that they are championing across our sector. Speakers covered a variety of key issues, including why innovation is important for the construction sector, how we are advancing across different industries and some of the current barriers to innovation.
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Johann Betz – Founder and Director, Offsite Design
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Rohan Bush – Director of Building Sustainability Innovation and Standards, Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities
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Wafaey Swelim – Director, QOROX
QOROX is a cutting-edge technology company that aims to revolutionise our construction industry through 3D printing. For the first time in New Zealand, QOROX has constructed a hybrid timber and concrete house with 3D printed concrete walls. Wafaey explained how they created the house and some of the challenges they’ve had to overcome in developing this technology.