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Habitech enters the NZ housing market

Melbourne-based prefabricated modular housing company Habitech Systems has entered the New Zealand market, with an exclusive partnership deal with NZ construction firm LiteGreen Projects.

The first home is already under construction in Christchurch, with six more in design, Habitech managing director Chris Barnett said.

LiteGreen approached Habitech as they were looking for a high-performance panellised system, but were unable to find a suitable local product, Mr Barnett said.

(L-R): Chris Barnett, Andrei Martin and Logan Berg

(L-R): Chris Barnett, Andrei Martin and Logan Bergs

Habitech had pitched its products to the NZ market back in 2013, he said, by attending an industry networking event during the planning phases for the Christchurch rebuild.

High insulative properties are a key advantage of the system for NZ, with Australian projects achieving NatHERS rating of up to nine stars.

The panel system comprises an expanded polystyrene core, sandwiched between Australian-made plywood, with a magnesium oxide cladding on the exterior. Tests have established it has a 30-minute fire rating, making it suitable for the flame zone in bushfire prone areas.

It also resolves some of the common issues that have been identified in NZ construction practice such as poor building sealing, a high level of defects including faulty insulation installation and long construction timeframes.

The company supplies builders with the full building fabric, including roofing, flooring and fastenings, and each house is architecturally designed as part of a mass customisation approach. House packages can also include heat recovery ventilation systems to give a full passive house-type result.

“The Habitech Panel system provides a sustainable building solution that incorporates high performance energy efficiencies and intelligent construction principles that substantially decreases build time,” LiteGreen director of project management Andrei Martin said.

“We hope it will revolutionise the way homes are built in New Zealand and give Kiwis the opportunity to build well above the code minimum standard, without incurring the extravagant costs which have often been attributed to building sustainable/eco-friendly homes.”

Andrei's-House_render-evening-(Medium)Mr Martin said the high level of earthquake resilience would also be important to Christchurch homeowners.

The wall panels have been independently certified to have 800 per cent of the bearing capacity, 580 per cent of the bending strength and 200 per cent of the bending stiffness of traditional framed construction.

“Having being aware of Christchurch’s earthquake rebuilding efforts for a number of years, we were thrilled to have LiteGreen seeking out our modular system to help them deliver higher quality housing outcomes,” Mr Barnett said.

“As LiteGreen have worked with Structurally Integrated Panel systems before, it has been great to engage with a building firm that understood and appreciated all the work we have put into refining our system to work smoothly in delivery for our builders.”

Mr Barnett travelled to New Zealand last month to train the construction firm’s carpenters in how to install the products.

He said Habitech was already looking further afield for other opportunities in the NZ market, including Queenstown and Otago. Further design work is also underway with a Christchurch-based architect and a structural engineer.

It is also in the midst of producing some designs in conjunction with Kiwi designer Bob Burnett, who designed and built the first home in NZ to be awarded a 10 Homestar rating by the NZ Green Building Council.

The products for NZ will be manufactured in Australia, containerised and shipped to NZ, Mr Barnett said. The orders pipeline means the company’s manufacturing partner will likely have to employ more people.

In Australia, the company completed 12 homes last financial year, Mr Barnett said. It is also has projects in the pipeline, including a co-housing project comprising four dwellings for two families in Frankston currently awaiting planning permission.

Research is ongoing, including looking at possible eco-friendly substitutes for the EPS core, Mr Barnett said. The company is an industry partner of the Advanced Manufacturing of Prefabricated Housing research hub based at the University of Melbourne, and this is one of the areas that is on the research agenda.

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