Plans for 12 Guangzhou-built container-style Hobsonville Point modular homes are delayed seven months because of this country’s over-stretched housing construction sector.
Tony Houston, managing director of Neilston Group which owns the pioneering Modul building system, said although the first three homes were finished and sold in the northwest last year, the next 12 were taking much longer than he initially expected.
Instead of being on-site in February, they now won’t leave Guangzhou for Auckland till September.
“It just takes so much longer. It’s very slow because it’s so time-consuming. It’s more the engineering, consenting and paperwork side of things here in Auckland,” he said of importing the steel-framed houses which arrive built-up with even kitchen taps installed.
“You go to an engineer and they can’t look at it for six weeks. We’re in the midst of the biggest building boom for the last 50 years, since Robyn’s father built,” Houston said referring to his wife who he is in business with.
Robyn Neil’s late father, Ron Neil, founded the prolific Neil Housing, busiest in the 1950s and 1960s in areas like Glenfield.
“Covid did slow it down a bit but it’s not really the production side of things,” said Tony Houston, a former franchise owner for G.J. Gardner’s busy North Shore and western areas.
Neilston combines Robyn Neil and Tony Houston’s surnames.
The first three terrace-style two-level Modul Hobsonville Point homes are at and beside 23 Nugget Ave. Houston showed those off last year to illustrate the success of the Modul system.
But last August, he was also optimistically forecasting that by February this year, the next homes would have arrived.
Instead, only earthworks are underway at that site further up the hill from the first three on Nugget Ave.
The 12 new houses are still in China and unfinished.
“They’ll leave from China in September,” Houston forecast this week.
“Designing in this modular way is very specific because it’s manufacturing. In China, they need more detailed drawings than we do in New Zealand. For example, there’s standard timber in 4 x 2 and you have that in houses in New Zealand but when you design it for a manufacturer, you have to draw each piece and say where holes need to be drilled in it,” Houston said.
Modular housing still has an extremely bright future and the setback did not deter him, he said, although he stressed the Modul designs were not shipping containers because for a start the units are larger than containers.
“Nothing surprises me anymore. We are four years into this process and it’s cost millions of dollars but it’s like Mt Everest. It took Edmund Hillary three goes to do it. People don’t know the heartache. It’s bloody hard. It’s not easy, otherwise, everyone would do it,” Houston said.
Tony Frost, founder and managing director of Ecotech which makes the homes, said he was in China overseeing the production of those 12 places now.
“We are several months late starting due to the New Zealand supply sector being under huge strain from design, engineering, consenting to on-site construction works that all have to be done ahead of manufacturing,” Frost said today.
Ecotech has exclusive New Zealand rights for Yahgee International products which he then sells to Houston and Neil’s business.
The next 12 homes were a different design to the first three on Nugget Ave, Frost said. Instead of living areas being upstairs, they would be downstairs.
“These are new design that has had to be certified and the quality assurance framework written and agreed by the local authorities prior to the works on the production line being booked in for manufacturing,” Frost said.
“I am not 100 per cent sure what progress is being made on the New Zealand works but can confirm we are underway with a manufacturing completion scheduled for August, then shipping and then assembly works on to the foundation when the buildings arrive.
“One good thing I guess is our Covid bubble over 250 workers at the 38-acre factory. We are able to keep progressing should another outbreak occur. Our world has changed and we have adapted,” Frost said.
Houston also plans to build 100 new Modul homes at Mt Roskill. Half of those are to be KiwiBuild and priced around $650,000 and the other free market ones are to be prices from around $850,000.
“We’ve done all the site works for three sides,” he said of plans for that land.
So Houston is working hard to achieve the vision he has, to build homes a bit like cars in a far more efficient and standardised form.
If we built cars like we build New Zealand houses, those cars would cost millions, he reckons. So he’s out to change the sector, one home at a time.
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