It’s no secret, engineered timber is red-hot in NZ and Australia right now. It can be a third of the weight of concrete, contain less embodied energy, and 10% cheaper (for 3-7 levels). But take-up is inhibited by a lack of experience and expertise. One way forward is to bring in fresh enthusiastic players, or to gradually build on in-house skills by looking out to the learnings from offshore, such as the recent trips to Sweden by both prefabAUS and PrefabNZ. Another option is to partner businesses with differing levels of experience and expertise at an individual project level.

At PrefabNZ’s CoLab earlier this year, Callaghan Innovation’s Chief Technology Officer, Chris Hartshorn, commented that “partnership is more important than technology”. That’s a big call, but there’s no doubt collaboration is the best way forward to increase information, education and skills and minimise mistakes leading to loss of time, quality and profits.

Here’s an example of one of these partnerships; the story of Stanley Group and Tall Wood.

Stanley is one of the “big brothers” of offsite construction in New Zealand, having pioneered a number of projects since the new millennium using a can-do attitude and smart thinking. A family owned and operated business, it has been delivering construction projects for over 80 years.

Kevin Stanley is the Managing Director and son of founding Director Don Stanley. His experience spans hands-on construction, leadership and governance, currently serving as a Board member at BRANZ, NZ’s building levy-funded construction research organisation. Rob Marshall manages the Auckland operations as well as business development across the group. He contributes over 20 years of leading property, development and construction businesses.

The Grounds - interior.
The Grounds - interior.
Knoll Ridge - exterior. Construction costs were reduced through offsite solutions such as 90% precast concrete.
Knoll Ridge - exterior. Construction costs were reduced through offsite solutions such as 90% precast concrete.
The Grounds - exterior.
The Grounds - exterior.


Stanley’s Modular division started in 2002 and has been focused on saving clients’ money by reducing timeframes to give them a faster return on investment utilising the features of prefabrication. Three key projects show their diverse range of volumetric and panelised techniques combined with differing architectural outcomes.

The Chateau Tongariro is an 80-year-old historic listed building at the foot of Mt Ruapehu. Stanley were tasked with adding on the eastern accommodation wing. To make the seamless renovation even more challenging, it is situated in a National Park which meant construction was able to extend just 1.5m from the footprint. This made traditional methods impossible, so the accommodation was delivered using permanent volumetric construction over a 10-month timeframe.

Stanley faced another challenging site at 2000 metres above sea level, further up the slopes of Mt Ruapehu to replace a skifield café that had burned down. Approximately 15% of the construction cost was reduced through the use of offsite methods such as 90% precast concrete, together with steel and glass units. A helicopter had to be used as crane access was impossible. Despite unpredictable weather conditions and snow at site, the build was completed in 23 weeks.

Elam Hall is the largest volumetric project in NZ to date, consisting of 468 bedsit modules built over seven months and installed over a further eight months. The timber-framed volumes were built in Stanley’s Matamata factory with panelised assembly from table-top jigs, and transported to site fully-furnished for a turn-key delivery. The heavily constrained building site wedged between a motorway and a busy campus would have struggled to enable traditional construction methods. The result was that both time and money were saved, enabling the University to house incoming students in time for the 2012 academic year.

The Stanley team are experienced collaborators and have worked with PrefabNZ on several prefabrication demonstration projects, such as the Click-raft system at the HIVE Home Innovation Village in Christchurch (2012) and the UNIpod open-source universal utility pod prototype (2016).

Tall Wood prides itself on being a new type of company; brand new in fact. Founded in 2016 from key directors combining prefabrication design, development, governance and strategy expertise, Tall Wood offers an integrated solution of design, management, supply and install services for residential projects at scale.

Daiman Otto, former PrefabNZ Board Chair, has been instrumental in driving the start-up of Tall Wood on the back of an investigative tour to Germany and Austria’s established engineered timber industry in 2013. Daiman brings a combination of architecture, prefabrication construction and property development, as well as his own entrepreneurial experience with Analog Structures.

Martin Udale has more than 30 years’ experience in the Australian, New Zealand, and UK property markets, focused on the commercial and residential development sectors. Martin also specialises in providing strategic business advisory services on urban regeneration, project governance developing successful partnership models, particularly between public and private sector parties.

The Grounds is a community of 42 one and two-bedroom apartments (31m2 – 85m2 excluding balcony) and a commercial space at the Hobsonville Point development. Comprising three buildings of three-storeys each, there is a high use of engineered timber and offsite fabricated elements in the project which will enable the rapid eight month build time. This includes the use of Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) floor and roof panels, offsite manufactured external walls and balconies that utilise LVL and glulam engineered timbers.

Project partners include Stanley Group and Tall Wood, together with Peddle Thorp architects and Twenty Twenty Property Partners. The compressed timeline started with a bid process in late 2016 to the client, the Hobsonville Land Company, a subsidiary of Housing NZ Corporation. Design and price criteria were committed to with affordable housing being a required outcome of this project. Resource consent was lodged in April, building consent in July and construction is targeted to start in October with completion for mid-2018. As Daiman Otto comments, “This is a very quick moving project with high engagement from all involved.”

It is interesting that the offsite construction techniques are part of the marketing campaign for The Grounds’ apartments:

“The Grounds development uses tall timber. It’s a low embodied energy building material and a healthier way to build, with a lighter carbon footprint, less wastage, and less pollution. The efficient off-site manufacturing process means that the build time is faster and more affordable.”

Marketing material for The Grounds also cites the partnering of “cutting edge production processes and centuries old techniques that are proven and trusted”. The key parties bring their unique combinations of experience and expertise to the project.

Stanley’s bring innovative initiatives include their controlled factory environment, workstation assembly for panels and service pods or combined volumes, production-line efficiency plus table-top jigs, permanent skilled staff, and monitored quality control. Results include improved sound and fire performance, reinforced construction to withstand transportation, and in-factory consent by an independent building certifier before travel to site.

“Partnering early in the design process with Stanley Group as a main contractor and supplier of offsite manufactured components has allowed for certainty of buildability, programme development and enhancement throughout the design process and accuracy of pricing”
(Rob Marshall, Stanley’s).

Tall Wood brings a commitment to engineered timber solutions, an emphasis on design for rapid assembly at site, and a focus on affordable outcomes in a housing market that is saturated with overinflated homes.

“Tall Wood and its partners are committed to providing affordable buildings first and foremost. Our contention is that quality and affordability are not mutually exclusive, but can be specifically and thoughtfully combined if the right approach is taken.

And one last thought on collaboration – if you saw the glossary in the last issue, it’s also available online here – please get in touch with any updates, comments or suggestions: ■

popup top
Click the book icon to navigate
table of contents
popup left
Click here for
previous articles
Click here for
next articles
popup right
swipe left swipe text swipe right
Scroll Down for
Feature article
popup bottom