The three little pigs

Building houses out of straw and sticks didn’t serve the first two pigs well, being very flimsy, and the big bad wolf has bigger teeth in New Zealand with earthquakes knocking bricks down as well.

Construction doesn’t seem to have changed much in the last 6000 years since we were weaving reads around sticks of timber and plastering them with mud. Timber framing with a plaster finish is very similar to the wattle and daub that we were using in our dim dark history.

New Zealand’s typical timber framed house has traditionally been cheap and easy compared to panelised or prefabricated housing.

The costs of labour in construction have been steadily climbing over the years. The main reason that we have used sticks of timber to build our houses with, rather than structural panels is due to cost … but the cost of putting those walls together has risen a lot due to the cost of labour (as well as the cost of materials and compliance requirements). This has brought us to a tipping point in the construction industry where now it is becoming more cost effective to start using much higher quality materials, such as structural panels, as they are much faster to put together, and hence take less labour.

Prefab construction? There’s a term that is thrown around a lot … but what is prefab construction? Concrete precast panels are definitely prefabricated, but timber framing can be prefabricated in a factory as well. There are a great many options.when it comes to prefabricated construction, and we’ll recognize a lot of them from what we see on television, whether in New Zealand, or around the world, and this can make it very confusing for people.

In very broad terms the prefabricated construction panels we use are:

1. Concrete panels

2. Structurally insulated panels (SIP’s)

3. Cross laminated timber panels (CLT)

Timber framing can also sometimes be supplied in panels with a sheet on the outside as well.

All of these have their own advantages compared to each other, and as an architect I use different combinations of these panel types depending on my clients requirements, and the sites we’re building on.

Finally in New Zealand we are seeing advances in technology have a positive effect on our construction industry, allowing us to provide higher quality buildings at a lower cost – maybe it’s time to write a New Zealand architects version of the big bad wolf…