Innovation is part of our Antipodean DNA. It’s part of our pioneering heritage and adventurous spirit that see us doing crazy things like travelling to far-flung parts of the world to celebrate finishing school or university or reaching mid-life.
Our combined Australian and New Zealand economies thrive off enterprising go-getting attitudes, as any products and services we dream up must travel vast distances to reach larger more lucrative markets. It will be essential to up the ante on how we apply this fantastic creativity to the current local and global housing affordability crisis. Innovative methods like offsite construction are one part of solving this housing puzzle.
YouTube – TEDxWellington – The Housing Puzzle.
• The McKinsey Institute set the scene in a recent report, predicting a “third of urban dwellers, 1.6 billion people, could struggle to secure decent housing by 2025”. This is scary stuff – To read more Google,”Tackling the world’s affordable housing challenge McKinsey”.
• The World Economic Forum suggests a way forward, “Innovative technologies that could change the way the industry has traditionally operated should be embraced more fully.” That sounds good – To find out more Google, “Future of Construction World Economic Forum”.
• KPMG (UK)’s Smart Construction Report identifies, “offsite construction offers predictability and an alternative to construction status quo by promising transformative improvements across the asset lifecycle in time, cost, quality and health and safety.” Now we’re talking about the benefits of innovative construction – To read more about it Google”KPMG Smart Construction pdf”.
In New Zealand, this application of innovation is affectionately known as ‘number 8 wire’ mentality – basically, an ability to create something out of not much. Some of the more sophisticated and global success stories include Fisher & Paykel appliances (think Dishdrawer), Weta Digital (think Lord of The Rings and Hobbit trilogies) and Rocket Lab (firing onto the global space-race scene).
With a growing emphasis at a regional and local level on economic development, social enterprise incubators and angel financiers, now is the perfect opportunity to connect with innovation in the built environment sector.
Here’s one short but inspiring story about bringing a smarter designed building product to market.
Actual top hub
DESIGN SMART : BUILD SMART
The Smartfit window product development story ends with a ready-to-fit window or door that arrives to site with built-in head flashings, jamb flashings, cavity closers, end dams and sill support bars. This means it can be taken off the truck and installed immediately, without expanding foams, silicones or PEF rods.
To the uninitiated, this means it can be placed into the window or door opening and screwed directly into position through an outer fixing fin. Incredibly, the system can be installed eight times faster than traditional windows. Don’t believe the hype? – watch an installation at smartfitwindows.co.nz
This fast fixing window can work in with panelised offsite construction, as used by Concision in Christchurch. It also enables early close-in for on-site construction with rigid air barriers (RAB) as pre-line can start once the windows are in. Building permit authorities love that only one inspection is required and everything is visible and offers easy to observe compliance. There are a multitude of potential uses, including for schools and low-rise medium-density housing, with a number of projects in full swing.
Rewind to the beginning, and the product development story started with emerging leaky building issues and resulting changes to New Zealand’s building code. The reaction for increased quality created more complex, water resistant window and door systems, but also added time and cost at site. The Fletcher Window and Door Systems development team saw the potential for a product to reduce human error at site by reducing the complexity and associated risks of installation. A singular product also sought to reduce the number of loose moving parts that could be lost or time added through purchase and travel.
To achieve the finished product, a system of design iteration through rapid prototyping using 3D printed parts was used. Fast failure enabled complex corner joints to be weather tested, tweaked and re-worked prior to large investment in plastic component production tooling.
This process enabled the system to respond to a range of commonly used structural and cladding materials – from light timber and steel framing, with or without rigid air barriers, and with cavity systems. The finished Smartfit window and door design moves that complexity into a controlled environment, making use of the benefits of CNC technology and offsite construction to control quality, reduce time and improve value to the client at the end of the day.
The product development team highlight their collaborative design process and close working with government bodies such as Callaghan Innovation and the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE). They worked with MBIE to obtain CodeMark certification, which means that the product complies with the NZ Building Code so must be accepted by permitting authorities. They also worked with BRANZ towards the Appraisal declaration that adds further evidence of compliance, reducing risk for specifiers and compliance professionals alike.
Today, this nifty system is made in NZ by partners at Fisher, Nebulite, Rylock and Vistalite. The Smartfit innovators at Fletcher Window and Door Systems have recently joined with the good folk at Nalco to create the new Altus brand, so keep an eye out.
Smartfit is a valued member of PrefabNZ – and this is their combined ‘top 7 for 2017’:
1. More medium-density housing means less wall space, so a focus on fewer better windows and doors to achieve the popular ‘indoors-outdoors-flow’.
2. Better light sources will be needed as wall space diminishes – making high-quality well-designed window systems essential.
3. The Smartfit team will be at PrefabNZ’s CoLab March 21-22 in Auckland for more chit-chat and inside tips about prefabrication in NZ.
4. Better performing windows will need better acoustics (thicker glass, wider spacers, stronger seals) and better ventilation (natural + mechanical).
5. The Smartfit system integrates with other offsite construction systems, like the UNIpod and Click-raft that will be on display at at INEX end March / early April at The Cloud in Auckland.
6. Increasing speed of build will become essential to deliver more dwellings per site, and to realise the potential for more
7. A growing emphasis on open source – creating more open dialogue to gain a broader perspective.
Good development teams believe they hold all the answers. Excellent development teams know that they need input from industry partners like you. That’s a direct invite to specifiers and installers out there to create smarter window and door solutions. ■