Monday, May 27, 2013

Modular Housing, Factory-produced.

Factory produced housing components have been around since the 1870's (look at early Kauri Timber Co catalogues....) but the transition to producing sections is painfully slow (roof trusses, some pre-built simple walls, some exceedingly simple modules).

Benefits of real production-volume and high-design-quality builds of this sort would be:
  • Real QC. On the factory floor. Instead of which we get 'Inspections' on site by underpaid, ratty, barely competent TLA staff, who do however have the fulll power to halt the job until that weather seal or bracket or widget is tweaked, adjusted, or otherwise have Yet Mo' Cost sunk into it. And the Next 'Inspection' will be by a different minion, with different ideas, but just as much Power to Obstruct.....
  • Real assembly, by staff who can be closely supervised, timed, who use highly automated tools, and a whole lotta CNC wizardry. Instead of the slapped together on site approach, by drug-addled hammer hands, loosely supervised, but of course wearing HiVis, and wearing Approved Safety Hats (tin-foil lined on Karamea and Waiheke jurisdictions) and Steel-capped Boots. Talking around with earthquake repair guys, it seems that having floors 30-40mm out of level, gibbing ceilings that are the same out of square, etc, is par for the course in new on-site builds....
  • Real design. Conduits and designated ducts for all services (black/grey/potable water, electrics of various voltages (solar, 12vDC for marine-style LED's, 400V or 230V AC for appliances, workshop etc), gas, refrigerant (for heat transfer from fridges, driers, hot water etc to where it's needed) and so on. Maintainability is just so poor (because not designed in) in most current housing. Doesn't need to be this way.
  • Real cost advantages. High-volume, yet customised production lines. Low, but highly skilled, labour requirements. Low margin possible if enough volume passes through. Possibility of deals with financing to provide an end-to-end type cover, and cut out the plethora of middle layers (ranging from the TLA Pre-Consent Discussion session (un-needed), through architects (replaced by CAD design, imported electronically), quantity surveyors (replaced by a BOM), and of course those Hammer Hands (and their local Tinny House).

But this approach will be thwarted, obstructed and outright blocked by the usual suspects:

  • TLA's and employee guilds, who are not gonna let the real 'inspection' pass out of their clammy ineptocratic hands, into whole-product factorys' certification....
  • TLA's who see a luvverly lucrative revenue stream, produced by demanding Extra Time Everywhere at an Exorbitant Hourly Rate, threatened.
  • Building Standards wallahs, who will have about as much to do with eventual housing quailty as happens with vehicles or boats (Peter Cresswell's favourite example)
  • The materials cartel, who have a really nice lock of the individual-component market, and who will find ways to either take over or block any such real 'competition'
  • I'm sure eager common taters can thinka more along these lines.

So I have a confident Prediction.

Nice thought.

Won't Happen.

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