In time, it’s likely to be referred to as ‘the whisper that roared’.
Steel-framed housing has nudged on to the national agenda with the award, to a joint venture of FRAMECAD and NZ Transportable Units, of a major tender issued by the Department of Building and Housing to construct up to 300 temporary accommodation units for those affected by the Christchurch earthquake/s.
The JV proved to be one of the three successful proposals out of 226 tender submissions. Key industry players who have been advocating ‘give steel an even chance’, are welcoming the award.
“The industry is both proud and pleased we can assist directly and tangibly in Christchurch’s recovery. It’s a terrible situation clearly requiring immediate attention to what remains still very desperate need,’says Carl Davies, GM National Association of Steel-Framed Housing Inc (NASH).
He is at pains to dispel that this marked the beginning of the end for timber-framed houses: “We aren’t so much looking to replace timber, which can be acceptable in certain circumstances, as we are in getting ‘a fair go’ for steel-framing, when and where it is entirely appropriate. New Zealand has, until now, been one of the few developed countries where steel got overlooked or deliberately ignored by government departments.
“The industry must take some of the blame for not educating the market on the superior performance of steel-framing in earthquake zones and forest fires etcetera. Over time we expect to capture somewhere in the order of 20 percent of the market, which is where we should have been by now,”says Davies.
So you’d imagine that the timber industry will be quite relieved by the reassuring words from the feared opposition?
Not one bit of it.
An editorial in ‘the voice’ of the Australasian timber industry, ‘Friday Offcuts’ notes in its main feature: The steel-framing industry has taken an early lead in not only positioning the product (it’s being promoted now as “A Sustainable Solution for Tough Times’), but have very cleverly added their marketing spin.
‘The attributes of steel staying straight and true; not rotting; and not being pumped full of preservatives is highlighted. The environmental credentials (recyclability, energy-efficiency) of steel vs wood are also getting a good airing on the back of the coverage that surrounds the successful tender,” it seethes.
Timbermen/women are then invited ‘to check-out the details and claims being made with the link in the story below’.
While Davies, who is also on the board of the newly formed Metals NZ association, shows restraint, the timber industry will be aware of extensive tests which have been conducted by NASH with various universities and BRANZ in the above-mentioned earthquake simulations – up to 9 on the Richter quake scale. The University of Melbourne and Auckland University.
He won’t be drawn on the source of political opposition, other than to say that a certain Christchurch MP was ‘very much linked to timber”, but was open to discussions.
Of course, steel-framing is more than a solution in disaster situations. Golden Homes has quietly upped its commitment to steel-framing, with it becoming the major base for new dwellings over the last few years — following an extensive evaluation process.
And we’ve all viewed the competitive TV advertising for the providers of barns, garages and sleepouts.
Davies, who claims little resistance to steel from local authorities – who currently carry about 85 percent of the cost of leaky houses and cannot even give away the failed-before-it-started 25:25:50 government ‘solution’ to that scandal, and would clearly have reason – said the Golden Homes’ deliberate approach would pay dividends in the future.
Note: In future editions NZ Manufacturer will feature some of the local companies making a huge impact on the global steel-framed housing and roofing industries.