Williamson the entertainer also slips in some construction updates

Building & Construction Minister Maurice Williamson was introduced to his Institute of Building audience on Friday night as an entertainer. An Australian at my awards dinner table was gobsmacked, then figured the description was apt as the minister rattled off a number of jokes he was not allowed to say any more. He thought Australia could do with a few cabinet ministers like that.

Although Mr Williamson‘s main role was to be photographed with award winners, he also managed to slip in a few points about the current state of the building industry, starting with the Christchurch earthquake experience: “Take the CCTV building – which should never have been built – out of the equation and our buildings stood up pretty well. We should celebrate our standard, but also take it up a bit.”

And then there are changes to earthquake awareness, requirements for greater ability to withstand shakes, and a point that probably needs to be explained more widely: “The new building standard is different for every location in New Zealand – low versus high, Kaitaia minimal.”

Not so long ago, to be a builder, “All you needed was a couple of dogs & a ute. We also had the bizarre situation where builders spent weeks printing off plans for the council, who spent weeks doing the same thing, then starting work on them. The building industry has been paper-based, red-taped, and is changing to risk-based building consenting. The new consenting scheme has huge merits.”

Mr Williamson did something few do: he distinguished between house affordability – what a particular buyer can afford – and housing affordability – the general cost of construction, building materials & design.

This took him back to a starter-home design competition the Government ran in 2009, won by Stephen Smith of S3 Architects Ltd, Auckland. Housing NZ built the first of these houses on Preston Rd, Otara, in 2010. The competition was to design an affordable home with a habitable floor area no bigger than 120m² and costing no more than $1400/m² to build. Mr Williamson said the 3-bedroom home was built for $158,000.

“It’s somewhere you’d be happy to live. After being a showhome, it sold for $400,000 because it’s not just the building, it’s the land.”

Mr Williamson said building retentions remained a difficult issue, as did the apparent cultural attachment to unique homes. After referring to a flight he made over a Californian suburb of 900 identical homes, Mr Williamson conceded there was a cultural difference: “We’re absolutely wedded to bespoke homes, but we may have to build a lot of homes that are similar – not tacky, but similar.”

The Institute of Building’s awards are individual, not for the building but for the work done, and the benchmark is set by the second-last winner of the night – the winner of the young achiever award. This year that award went to Andrew Rowden, of Hawkins Construction Ltd in Christchurch, a name you can expect to see again.

Setting the benchmark because, if the performance of past winners is anything to go by, these young achievers will appear on the awards list time & time again. Last year’s young achiever, Brendan Lindsey  of Dominion Constructors Ltd in Auckland, won an excellence award this year for his work on Aecom House, in the $25-50 million category.

The top award went to Fletcher Construction duo Jack Harris & Simon Chambers for their work on the earthquake-damaged Grand Chancellor Hotel in Christchurch.

Awards:

Under $5 million, Resene award: Excellence, Andrew Burden (Hyline Construction Ltd), Albany Junior High School fixed dental facility; and Eugene Duggan (Fletcher Construction, Christchurch), Ronald McDonald House, Christchurch

$5-10 million, Hayes Construction Recruitment Specialists award: Excellence, Jack Harris & Simon Chambers (Fletcher Construction, Christchurch), Grand Chancellor Hotel, Christchurch; highly commended, Scott Wilsher (NZ Strong Ltd, Auckland), Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Pukemiro, Kaitaia

$10-25 million, Colorsteel Projects award: Excellence, Alun Larsen (Hawkins Construction Ltd), ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre refurbishment; highly commended, Bill Stockman & Peter Chisholm (Arrow International (NZ) Ltd), Te Aro Hihiko – College of Creative Arts, Massey University, Wellington; & Grant O’Toole (Hawkins Construction, Wellington), Countdown supermarket, Newtown, Wellington

$25-50 million, Holcim award: Excellence, Brendan Lindsey (Dominion Constructors Ltd, Auckland), Aecom House, Auckland; highly commended, Matthew Findlay (Hawkins Construction, Christchurch), Canterbury University Oval villages, Dovedale & Kirkwood Avenues, Christchurch

Over $50 million, Davis Langdon award: Excellence, Ted Senner & Paul Youngman (Hawkins Construction, Christchurch), Christchurch international airport integrated terminal project; highly commended, Chris Edwards & Stuart West (Fletcher Construction, Auckland), Auckland University medical health science faculty

Innovation, James Hardie award: Excellence, Bill Stockman & Peter Chisholm (Arrow International (NZ) Ltd), Te Aro Hihiko – College of Creative Arts, Massey University, Wellington

Sustainability, Steel Construction NZ award: Highly commended, Scott Wilsher (NZ Strong), Peter Davidson (Brewer Davidson) & Joanna Woods (e-Cubed Building Workshop Ltd), all Auckland, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Pukemiro, Kaitaia

Young achiever, Progressive Building + Info Link magazine award: Winner, Andrew Rowden (Hawkins Construction, Christchurch)

Supreme award, Gib: Jack Harris & Simon Chambers (Fletcher Construction, Christchurch), Grand Chancellor Hotel, Christchurch

Attribution: Awards event.

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