Building company plans to ramp up house production

MARTA STEEMAN
Last updated 05:00 30/07/2013

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New Zealand's biggest building company, Fletcher Building, is drawing up a strategy to build thousands of homes a year.

Christchurch may be its first target market because of the availability of land and the need for new homes after the earthquakes.

It is also investigating whether it could factory-produce the parts.

Its staple has been expensive "bespoke" homes in Auckland but it is eyeing low-rise apartments, social and affordable housing and multi-family dwellings.

The move is driven by new chief executive Mark Adamson after he discovered Fletcher Building made 300 houses a year.

"My first question is why aren't we making more. And we're a New Zealand company, why aren't we building more throughout the country and not just Auckland."

Adamson was in Christchurch looking at the several roles the firm has in the rebuild.

"So what I've instigated is a wholesale review as to how we can be far, far bigger, orders of magnitude, not 300 becomes 400, but hundreds become thousands over a period of time. And not just the houses we currently build."

He had asked the team to have a clear direction by Christmas.

The Auckland market was more of a challenge because of the lack of large parcels of land relatively close to the centre of the city. Christchurch had the money and the need and the land.

"You've got to have Auckland as part of our plan because it's half the population of the country" but the Christchurch rebuild was the most pressing priority.

New construction techniques for affordable housing were used around the world. The floor plans of each were the same and the house parts were built in factories but clever architects could "dress up the exterior" to be different.

Factory-producing such houses would be a couple of years off. "You do drive though subdivisions [of factory-built homes] and you are not conscious it looks like East Germany."

But it would require a culture shift in New Zealand, he said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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