Fresh look at old brick may solve quake dilemma

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 10:31 04/10/2012
Villa Veneer
NICOLE GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ

Villa Veneer co-owners John Ivanov, left, and Barry Smith plan to expand their business to the North Island and hope to help build earthquake-resistant homes in Christchurch.

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Owners of an Invercargill-based block company believe they have created an earthquake-proof product that could be used to rebuild homes in Christchurch.

Last month Villa Veneer co-owners Barry Smith and John Ivanov won the Southland regional section of business.govt. nz's ANZ Flying Start Business Plan competition.

In 2007 the pair invented an exterior block-type cladding product with the benefits of a brick, but the appearance of weatherboard.

They decided to use the prize money to test the system for earthquake resistance at Canterbury University.

"The bricks are diamond connected and we believe they are stronger than normal brick that butts together," Mr Ivanov said.

"When the diamond is filled with slurry, the bricks can't move apart, whereas a standard brick would just be two flat edges that don't hold together in an earthquake," he said.

The pair said their new website had helped to secure the Villa Veneer project in Christchurch, so they plan to use the rest of the prize money to enhance the site, which had proved invaluable to the business since it went online 10 months ago.

"The Christchurch project is exciting and we got great feedback from the Christchurch Home Show, so are hoping for further contracts," Mr Smith said.

The company experienced a big lift in business after the Home Show, which was reflected in website hits, Mr Ivanov said.

The website gave more information about the customers, who got a better understanding of the product from the site, he said.

More than 30 projects had been completed throughout the lower South Island, he said.

The brick products were made at a factory in Clyde but the Villa Veneer owners were also trying to get their products made in the North Island to save on freight costs. They were talking to a block plant near Hamilton about having the blocks made there, Mr Smith said.

collette.devlin@stl.co.nz

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