Fletcher's new off-site house production plant in Wiri is expected to make the core components for at least 500 new homes a year

Fletcher's new off-site house production plant in Wiri is expected to make the core components for at least 500 new homes a year
One of the workers at Fletcher Building's new Clever Core plant which will produce prefabricated housing.

Fletcher Building has officially opened in Auckland what it is describing as New Zealand’s largest purpose-designed, offsite home manufacturing facility, capable of producing components for at least 500 new homes a year.

The Wiri-based Clever Core plant has cost $15 million and will employ 35 people .

Fletcher says the facility will reduce onsite build times by 60% from about 22 weeks to just six-to-10 weeks. And it says the core structural components of a home can be made in as little as a day in the factory environment.

Pre-manufactured wall, floor and roof components, along with insulation, double-glazed windows and allowances for wiring and plumbing will then be taken to construction sites and assembled by specially trained builders.

Faster production of housing

Fletcher Building chief executive Ross Taylor says the new facility is a significant step for New Zealand housing and will help support a faster rollout of new homes around the country.

He says core components for 100 houses will be produced by the end of this calendar year.

The facility will initially be used to support Fletcher’s developments, but Taylor says it is planned to extend the offering to group home builders and retirement home operators in the future.

The plant (seen in the two pictures below) will produce one and two level terraced and duplex housing. 

Government's planned changes for pre-fab housing

The Government announced last week that it was planning to introduce a new certification scheme for manufacturers of prefabricated houses that would streamline the consenting process. Under the scheme certified manufacturers would only need a building consent for the installation site of a prefab, rather than also requiring one for design or factory work.

This is expected to increase the number of houses being built through halving the number of building inspections required, saving manufacturers and consenting authorities time and money.

At present only 10% of newly built homes are prefabricated. The certification scheme is expected to be included in legislation, which is expected to be introduced to Parliament early next year, as part of the Government’s overhaul of the Building Act.

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From the photos, this certainly isn't an SIP, a Kingspan or similar panellised type of construction. It may well be modular, able to be flat-packed and craned onto sites, then clonked together by the usual mélange of occasionally drug-tested hammer hands.

But, being essentially a faster way to do the same old stud, plate and dwang structure, it doesn't qualify as novel in any way.


it looks like they are coping the germans, now all we need is the consenting sorted out so if made in the factory it can be given the ok, say once a fortnight or month audit to approve processes used rather than each building.
the quality of the builds can now be made more standard

Its not what I'd call game changing, its just a scaled up version of a basic prefab line. But at least its an attempt at something more sophisticated. Currently theres no one in the country capable of establishing or sustaining the throughput required for a truely modular preassembled housing system like they use in developed countries. Our population is simply too small to justify the capital investment hence the very high number of staff in that factory. A truely automated line would only have a handful of techs doing the planning and feeding while the machines poured out the work...just sayin!

A good idea and much needed in NZ. A lot of talk of speeding up the building process and producing more though, but only one mention of it lowering costs, and that mention not being for buyers: "saving manufacturers and consenting authorities time and money."

The only benefit that Fletchers have is that they are ordering the houses from their own factory. Other modular companies never got the orders to sustain the business.

Nothing like the highly productive computerised robot factories the Germans use to build bespoke kitset houses that go up in a day onsite.

NZ has a really shallow pool of tech, math and engineering talent. Our brightest Kiwi and migrant workers end up leaving for greener pastures and then we simply replace them with migrants, many of whom tick the box on STEM qualifications but lack the talent to work on sophisticated projects.

Given the nationwide talent shortage, nobody in their right mind would build a German-style computerised robot factory in NZ.

I am not saying we're the only ones facing this problem; for years American and British technology companies lost their best minds to the financial industry.
Lately, tech firms and fintech start-ups seem to be doing a decent job reducing the flow of talent out of productive industries with their massage chairs and gaming rooms at work.

We get this all the time in our industry.
"Sureeee, there's not over time pay, but hey, ping pong and free pizza if you work over 60hrs this week!"

Sadly it works with the fresh out of Uni kids.

I doubt that, id suggest its more likley we have a shallow pool of capital. NZL ranks very admirably in areas like 'holders of doctrite level qualifications', 13th in the OECD.

In 2017, a report by the Ministry of Education said 58 percent of foreign doctoral students had returned overseas one year after completing their studies, rising to 75 percent after five years
about 70 percent are actually in areas like science, technology, agriculture, and they're working on usually quite applied problems that are relevant to our economy
"We are a relatively low-wage economy. We don't have the types of wages other markets can provide"

My point exactly on retention of skills and talent.

We invest all our money in housing and little in productive business. Not the greatest generator of export earnings.

Not to disagree with you, but in my view the fact that kiwi's invest all they got in property is the symptom not a cause. NZ is very good at one thing (on global scale) prime industries and NZ has invested up to his/her eyebrows in this. What other major opportunities are there for average investors? Where are the unrealised economic potential of NZ?
Sure, IT and Tech are very attractive, and NZ is not doing terrible in this area. But for the exact same reasons that this can be a thing for NZ, it can be a thing for (almost) any other countries on the planet. What else? manufacturing? mining?

For this stuff, on the floor, you don't need STEM qualifications. Its just not needed. As for the STEM stuff, true knowledge is 'only' required in the back office and all training is provided. I've seen guys that ONLY know how to hit a nail, trained up (in a week or two), to work in the back office running these machines. It's honestly not as hard as you think it might be.

Agreed, its not much more than a highly advanced frame and truss plant, but quality wise anythings got to be better than current methodologies...

Here's a timelapse video showing fletchers putting a house up in a day...


Do you have a youtube or similar link for this video?

I think one of the problems with prefabs is going to be perception. In NZ, companies can barely build a house using "old fashioned" techniques that aren't leaky, and will last more than 50 years, let alone a prefab. I'm not personally against them, but I'm also not sold on them. I doubt they'll be the be all end all to the housing crisis. I'd be a bit leery of them until they've proven they can stand the test of time. Unfortunately, I'm old enough I wont' be around long enough to see if they do or not.

That said, I don't really trust most companies to do this in a manor that is anything other than cheap. Cheap quality, cheap components, built with cheap labour and cheap materials. I wouldn't be surprised if it's just fast forwarding to the next leaky homes crisis.

Put wide eaves and non-leaking outside cladding...and we'll at least be as robust as 1950s-70s houses were...Which is better than the leaky fiascos of the 1990s.

Reviewed the time lapse on stuff, looks straight , looks strong, to resist gravity loads with good diaphragm action in the floor/ceiling, for load redistribution, but what about the edge joins, didn't see a lot of guts in them.
I recently watched the build of a prefab made of really thick customwood type material, and the joins were long screws into edge grain. Put that through an earthquake , see what happens, what pops. Show me some well anchored steel strapping between panels, before I would consider one of these.

"He says core components for 100 houses will be produced by the end of this calendar year."

Well that will make JA nervous. Fletcher prefab might just outsell KiwiBuild ;)

Fletcher grew in big part because of participation in government build activity. You'd hope the government is already talking to partners such as Fletcher about leveraging this sort of initiative into state build work.

Will Fletcher also be limiting the sale of these kit houses to the Auckland area? No chance of it getting shipped to the South Island?

There are already two factories running in the South Island that are using the same machines. They're not businesses owned by Fletchers either. You literally wouldn't have a clue the houses were made this way either.

Fletcher Building chief executive Ross Taylor says the new facility is a significant step for New Zealand housing and will help support a faster rollout of new homes around the country.

He says core components for 100 houses will be produced by the end of this calendar year.

Ross Taylor going for a century!

So this cost $15 million. Why doesn’t the government build 40 of these instead of throwing money at private builders?

Bloody good question.
Because...they are incompetent, are great at talking, and crap at 'doing'

Theres actually a tonne of renewal work being done within the HNZ estate, I've been quite suprised at the scale of the undertakings I've seen. Lots going on. It makes me wonder how the sector would look if Nick Smith and his moronic colleagues had opened the spigot for that sort of work when the sector imploded after the gfc.

Yeah stuff is happening, but to be fair National was starting to ramp that HNZ stuff up before they lost power. It's still nowhere near the scale needed and prefab is an obvious way to ramp up.

Yes they did didn't they but only after John Key was polite enough to leave the building and the leadership of the party could finally take notice of the cacoghany of concerned voices from within the national party supporter base, uptil then they simply ignored the mounting catastrophy while their leader pulled pigtails and smiled for the camera.

I thought the biggest problem was financing prefabs. The banks put them in the same basket as a 100 year old house sitting in a brittons yard because its "transportable" so requires them to be completed before lending any money on them, DOH!, no wonder NZ is a housing basket case. Building on site to "minimum" standards, horrific price gouging by electrical, plumbing and building supplies, every different council have different rules and regulations, dodgy cladding systems, 3 year term gutless governments...all blacks might win the world cup tho woo hoo!

Welcome Home Loans (now first home loans) are a scheme where the government underwrites the potential extra risk to the banks of high lvr lending.
The problem with bank financing them is that the mortgage is registered against the land and improvements and until the house is fixed to the land it is not an improvement. I wrote to last housing minister (what was his name now?) suggesting do the same for prefab housing? Actual capital outlay (how many houses fall off the trailers?) relatively modest. Didn't even get a reply

Intention as quoted:
"Welcome Home Loans (now first home loans) are a scheme where the government underwrites the potential extra risk to the banks of high lvr lending"
Actual Outcome:
Welcome Home Loans (now first home loans) impose, by central fiat, a local price floor to housing. Because, after all, what builder or developer in their right mind would charge less than the WH loan amount for their shack, regardless of their actual input cost (always assuming input cost < WH loan amount)? And that price floor becomes the local minimum sell price for almost any house which is short of terminal decay, so infects entire cities and provinces with house prices wildly out of kilter with household income multiples.

I have to bite...Yes that's partly true but what is the answer? Previous generations had capitalised family benefit, state advances loans etc etc. Current generations, children of the wealthy (even moderately wealthy) get in with no deposit now and have done for years.
And house price vs household income multiples have almost nothing to do with actual affordability. A $600k house in 2009 costs MORE in repayments and total cost at then applicable interest rates than a $1m house in 2017. Houses are actually more affordable now with current rates. I know... ponzi scheme, it's all going to collapse etc etc etc! but in the meantime if it puts families in homes who never would have hoped before is that a bad thing?

I presume Fletcher's would offer a 50 year guarantee on their house components and installation.

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