Metrapanel nails contract for kitset homes

NARELLE HENSON
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2014

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It has been a busy few months for Metrapanel. When the Fairfax Media spoke to owners Melissa and Andrew Savage in October, the Huntly-based company had just nailed a deal with Housing New Zealand for 100 of its kitset homes.

Since then it has added a deal with Christchurch City Council, the Ministry of Education, and is in the process of tendering for several other projects in conjunction with its installers.

That, says Melissa Savage, has made for very little downtime recently. In fact, when we met, she is in the process of sending off an Auckland-based tender that could double the company's revenue. Unfortunately, that means it's hush hush on the details until the tender process is complete, and the winner of the job is announced.

What she can tell us is that Metrapanel has "formed some very good relationships with some key people in social housing , so we're looking forward to finding out whether we're successful or not, with a large number of homes up there."

Given that Housing New Zealand would like to see 2000 new homes in Auckland by 2015, it is a good relationship to be working on.

Less of a secret is what the company actually produces. It was Savage's father who came up with the idea of prefabricated panels that would essentially allow the roof, walls and floor of a house to become a "kitset," locked together onsite in as little as half a day. The cost saving is considerable compared to the traditional home build method which takes a few weeks.

He struck upon the idea while flying over the Laminex Group Plant in Taupo. There was a hole in its roof thanks to a recent fire, and from there Les Wykes could see a seven-metre press pushing out panels of laminex which were then cut down into bench tops or smaller items.

"His cogs got turning," says Savage.

"He got talking to Fletchers to see if they could formulate a board to withstand the elements and they did."

That was 1990, and 24 years later the company has been through a sell off to Fletchers, before eventually being bought back into the family by Savage and her husband in 2007.

It was good timing. Savage says the company had six good months before the financial crisis hit.

"It's been hard, but it allowed us to get all our ducks in a row.

"I don't think we would be as well prepared if we didn't have those hard years."

By prepared, she means "for the influx of interest" that will see the company's revenue grow by a projected 30 per cent at least this year.

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- BusinessDay

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