Archive | Research

Science challenge to improve homes & urban environment launched

Science & Innovation Minister Steven Joyce launched the Better homes, towns & cities national science challenge yesterday, aimed at encouraging research to develop better housing & urban environments.

It’s the last of 11 national science challenges the Government has launched, and will receive funding of up to $47.9 million over 10 years.

Mr Joyce said the aim was to research how innovation & technology could be better adopted by & embedded into the New Zealand building industry: “The challenge will bring, engineers, scientists & social researchers together to benefit from each other’s expertise & resources, and work on practical solutions that bring long-term transformational benefits for New Zealanders in how our homes, towns & cities function.”

BRANZ (the Building Research Association of NZ) is the challenge host, and its partners include all 8 New Zealand universities, Crown research institutes GNS Science & Scion, independent research organisations Opus Research and the Centre for Research, Evaluation & Social Assessment, Prefab NZ & Auckland Council.

Some initial research examples are:

  • Making design decisions that raise the comfort & functionality of buildings, while lowering operational costs through better energy & water use, and reducing maintenance & refurbishment
  • Investigating how the configuration of infrastructure, streets, public spaces, urban blocks & range of housing types impact on people’s lives & wellbeing
  • Developing new methods to acquire & use crowdsourced data that can inform decisions that improve the wellbeing of citizens and the quality of their built environment
  • Identifying successful Maori community housing initiatives that could provide a model for urban & semi-urban development based on sound ecological principles, whakapapa (kinship), cultural practices & economic sustainability.

Update 7 May 2016: The original link to the Science challenge Better homes page was incomplete and, the day after the minister’s release, the correct link (below) wasn’t much use to you either – not updated since February. The second link below is to the whole challenge programme.

Better homes, towns & cities
National science challenges programme

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Wellington cbd insurance premiums still way above Auckland’s

Published 31 October 2014
The Property Council’s annual operating expenses benchmarks show insurance premiums for commercial property in the Wellington cbd have more than doubled since 2010 and are 175% higher than in Auckland.

The publication shows insurance rates for commercial property in Wellington’s cbd at $22.11/m²/year, versus $8.05/m² in Auckland.

Property Council Wellington branch president Mike Cole said yesterday Wellington properties had faced huge insurance rate rises since the Canterbury earthquakes, and a time series analysis (a small sample) showed the rate in the capital had risen from $9.63/m² in 4 years.

Rates appeared to have peaked last year, but owners of many older buildings still faced far higher rates than the pre-earthquake levels.

Despite the high insurance rates, the opex survey showed overall total operating expenses in the Wellington cbd matched those in Auckland, which had higher operating costs (including energy, administration & heating, ventilation & air-conditioning.

The opex benchmark survey covers 96 office buildings & 29 shopping centres, with a combined total rentable floor area of more than 1.3 million m².

Attribution: Property Council release.

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Minister hails boom, report forecasts earlier dip

Published 31 October 2014
Building & Housing Minister Nick Smith hailed an unprecedented construction boom over the next 3 years, forecast in a report out yesterday.

What the report also shows is that the boom is now forecast to surpass the expectations of 11 months ago only this year, the 2016 peak should be lower and it should start to peter out more quickly.

The Productivity Partnership said its second national construction pipeline report confirmed the findings of the first, published last December, pointing to continued unprecedented construction growth over the next 3 years.

The government-industry partnership said in its release yesterday the first report was well received. I questioned a number of its assumptions.

The second report draws on updated data from Statistics NZ, projections by Pacifecon (NZ) Ltd based on its comprehensive database of non-residential building projects, and forecasts by BRANZ covering both residential & non-residential building.

Key findings of the new report:

  • a minimum 10% increase is expected every year to 2017
  • construction activity peaks in 2016 (2015 in Canterbury)
  • the value of construction work undertaken in June 2014 was just below the previous peak in 2007
  • growth continues to be driven by Auckland housing demand & the Canterbury rebuild
  • growth in Canterbury construction activity is lower than previously forecast.

The report identifies a small number of very large projects, each valued at more than $100 million. Central government projects don’t feature largely in the forward work programme outside Canterbury, where nearly $1 billion of public works is scheduled to start before next April.

The Building & Construction Productivity Partnership, a joint industry & Government body established in 2010 to address barriers to productivity in the construction sector, commissioned the national construction pipeline report from Pacifecon, in conjunction with BRANZ. It brings together economic forecasts & data from the public & private sectors on their forward construction workload.

One objective when the partnership was set up was to try moderating the boom-bust mentality. It clearly hasn’t succeeded in that regard yet.

Both partnership reports forecast demand through to December 2019. They’re based on a compilation of known/documented projects & economic forecasts of construction, complemented by information on known non-residential construction intentions from April 2014-December 2019 and actual construction data from January 2012-March 2014. The year beginning January 2012 is used as the base year for any comparisons.

The national report says the value of all construction for 2014-18 is forecast to be 2.2% lower than forecast in the 2013 report, primarily because of a 4.3% reduction in the value of residential building.

The report said these changes to assumptions since the 2013 report had had the net effect of reducing forecast residential building nationally:

  • Housing numbers are expected to be up in the next 3 years due to stronger net immigration, and
  • Average house values are down due to an expectation of smaller house sizes.

However, the value of all construction nationally is still forecast to reach unprecedented levels, with a sustained rate of growth that has not been seen in 40 years.

The value of all construction nationally for the March 2014 year was fractionally lower than the previous peak of $27 billion in the March 2008 year. The forecast shows construction activity rising a further 29% from March 2014, to an unprecedented peak of $35 billion in the March 2017 year, consistent with the 2013 report.pacifecon region

Auckland would continue to dominate national demand, accounting for over a third of all work by value, from 2012-19. The forecast value of all construction in Auckland steadily increases to a peak of $13.1 billion in 2017, reducing in 2018 & 2019.

The report said residential activity continued to drive growth in Auckland and was forecast to more than double in value from 2012 ($3.5 billion) to the peak in 2017 ($7.3 nillion). The number of multi-unit dwellings consented in Auckland was forecast to increase rapidly, from 960 consented in 2012 to nearly 4800 in 2019.

The Productivity Partnership, via the Auckland Procurement Forum, produces a separate construction pipeline report for Auckland, which provides data on current plans & forecasts for capital investment.

The last Auckland construction report, produced in August, said: “The predominately public sector data shows a flat market as expenditure remains constrained for these government clients. The increasing impact of potential construction inflation means further pressure will be felt on their budgets. However, the inability of a number of organisations to provide accurate data for the full 3 years does mean that the perceived dip in that year may not occur.”

It gave 3 reasons for this loss of clarity:

  • Many organisations not being able to work to a 5-year planning horizon, with some still not able to fix 3-year forecasts, due to significant rebudgeting exercises
  • Ministries switching budgets from Auckland to Christchurch, within capped expenditure constraints, ahead of the September general election
  • State-owned enterprises post-privatisation capex constraints and the need to match peer group capital expenditure levels ahead of annual reporting cycles.

pacifecon reg resiDr Smith said the rapid rate of residential growth in Auckland “affirms the success of the Government’s housing accord with the Auckland Council, where we will see thousands of new homes coming to market for families in the next few years.

“The forecast for Christchurch is further evidence that the post-earthquake rebuild efforts in the city are moving at pace. There are at least 6 Government projects due to begin in the next 6 months, with a collective value of nearly $1 billion.

“There is further good news for Christchurch in that this Government-funded construction activity appears to have wider, positive flow-on effects, with non-earthquake-related, non-residential construction also expected to grow.”

Links: National construction pipeline report
Auckland pipeline report, August 2014

Earlier story:
11 December 2013: Caveats ignored as construction forecast report raises boomtime speculation

Attribution: Productivity Partnership reports, ministerial release.

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Wellington outlook brightest in Rider Levett’s survey

Published 30 January 2009

Rider Levett Bucknall has forecast extremely subdued levels of growth for both 2009 & 2010 in its latest international construction cost commentary.


Rider Levett Bucknall Research & Development uses global cost data to derive indexed measures of relative costs of construction within & between markets for its bi-annual commentary.


The international group’s Auckland-based chairman, Brian Dackers, said: “The advent of the global credit squeeze has resulted in a drastic slowdown in global growth, with the effects being felt by all economies worldwide.


“For construction, the time-consuming process of freeing-up of financial markets & credit availability may be required before the re-establishment of confidence in residential, commercial & retail sectors, which only then will result in more projects coming to market. However, in most locations, what we are seeing is that the difficult market conditions are providing an excellent tendering environment for clients of the industry who do have liquidity of funding.”


The report charts tender price index movement for leading cities around the world between July 2008-January 2009 and found two-thirds of them had zero or negative tender index movement. The biggest rises in tender price growth were Darwin (4.1%), Adelaide (2.8%) & Perth (2.3%). Wellington recorded zero growth and Auckland contracted by 1%. Dubai’s index rose by only 1.8%.


Those figures are well down from those only 6 months earlier – Singapore 18.7%, Dubai 15.8%, Hong Kong 14.6% & Perth 8.3%.


Mr Dackers said: “Our analyses clearly show the change occurring in the third quarter, although the signs had been there earlier in the year in various locations. As a result, construction industries across the globe face more challenging times ahead as funding becomes less readily available & more costly. Though interest rates have fallen, banks’ reluctance to fund risk is now a major factor in getting projects off the ground, even if demand exists.”


The report indicates that, in 2009, New York, London & Honolulu are the most costly cities to build in. In New Zealand, Wellington is the most costly city, followed by Auckland, then Christchurch.


New York is 51% more costly than Wellington, 57% more than Auckland.


Auckland flat, except for infrastructure


Mr Dackers said that despite interest-rate cuts since July, the Auckland residential market remained flat. Meanwhile, the other building market sectors had become similarly affected, with demand & access to development finance rapidly declining.


“Only the infrastructure sector has been unaffected by the downturn, with central Government-funded projects continuing through the maelstrom. Local government spending, conversely, is set to be slashed.


“Despite weak demand, building materials costs for contractors are rising, due to general cost increases coupled with the falling $NZ, which is offsetting recent falls in international commodity prices. Highly competitive market conditions, however, are set to remain, with contractors targeting margins & overheads to secure a limited supply of work.”


Christchurch conditions mirror Auckland’s


Mr Dackers said general economic conditions in Christchurch mirrored those in Auckland, although Christchurch had several major projects either under construction, recently started (AMI Stadium & new Christchurch civic building) or due to start soon (Christchurch Airport redevelopment).


“Together, they have a combined value in excess of $300 million, which will keep the industry relatively busy well into and possibly through 2009. However, we are noting, in recent tenders, greatly increased competition & associated price-cutting in terms of margins.


“These conditions are likely to persist in the next period as tendering opportunities continue to be adversely affected by the lack of confidence in the market and problems of financing. This is already apparent in the small to mid-size project end of the market.”


Wellington outlook brighter


“Wellington is also feeling the effects of the credit crunch, but is coming off a 20-year high in construction volume. The excess of labour supply thus created is giving rise to competition & price-cutting in the context of fewer new tendering opportunities.


“However, Wellington has at least 6 major projects commenced or about to commence, with a total value of about $200 million. Further, 2 major Wellington City Council projects are seeking consultant submissions, with confirmation that they will proceed, and there are also the new sports stadium & extensions to the City Art Gallery. These projects plus others in mid-construction will keep the workforce busy through 2009 and into 2010.”


Want to comment? Email [email protected].


Attribution: Company release story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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Beijing cheaper to build in than Wellington, says Rider survey

Published 22 August 2008

Beijing has proved 22% less costly to build in than Wellington this year, Rider Levett Bucknall says in its half-yearly international construction cost commentary out today.


Locally, the consultancy found construction costs were rising faster in Christchurch (up 3%) than Auckland (up 2.3%) & Wellington (up 2.7%). Internationally, the big movers since Rider Levett Bucknall’s 2007 study were Singapore (up 18.7%), Dubai (up 15.8%) & Hong Kong (up 14.6%).


In New Zealand, the lack of funding has had more serious impacts on construction. Rider Levett Bucknall research & development manager Roger Hogg said: “The New Zealand economy is also continuing to operate at historically high interest rate levels, but is not as sheltered as the Australian economy by resource production, so the effect has been a marked general slowdown, although there remain the impacts of inflationary effects arising from a tight labour market.


“The prospect of low projected GDP growth for the next 3 years, accompanied by relatively high levels of general inflation caused by labour shortages and food & energy cost increases, has introduced a sense of uncertainty. The residential market in particular has been considerably affected by high interest rates & credit availability problems.”




Mr Hogg said large increases in steel costs and other incremental movements were negated by a tightening main-contract market, with a consequential squeeze on margins & preliminaries in order to pick up a slightly weaker current volume of work.

“Weakness in work volume is worst in the apartment residential sector, where the lack of availability and high cost of credit have combined with perceived falling values for apartments, to postpone or even cancel some developments. The commercial market is sending out mixed messages. Several major projects are close to commencement, whilst others are being delayed, due not to the credit squeeze, but rather to issues of consents & appeals.”




The tight credit market, high interest rates and rising fuel & food costs had flattened the housing & apartment markets and created tension in other sectors. “Tenders have remained competitive through early 2008, with many small to medium-sized contractors being particularly keen to tender.


“Materials costs, however, continue to rise, steel products being particularly affected. This, in tandem with a weakening dollar, is leading to cost increases despite competitive market conditions. With commodity prices set to continue rising and interest rates tipped to fall, Auckland may see greater levels of cost increase than in the last 18 months.”




Mr Hogg said demand in the Christchurch market had softened in recent months, due to a noticeable slowing in the residential market and the impact of tighter credit & higher interest rates.


“It remains to be seen what further effect weak national economic activity may have. There have been substantial cost increases in commodities, which it seems unlikely that main contractors & sub-contractors will be able to absorb. However, there is a competitive edge in the tender market, as contractors seek to maintain turnover in an uncertain environment. While the small to medium-size project market is showing a respite, there are still several large projects at design stage that are likely to increase medium-term demand.”




Rider Levett Bucknall’s global chairman, Brian Dackers of Auckland, said the global credit squeeze had slowed global growth significantly, but more in the advanced than the emerging economies.


“Global growth is forecast to slow markedly this year, with the US economy bumping along the bottom of its cycle before a projected recovery next year. Meanwhile the emerging economies are becoming increasingly integrated in the global economic scene and are making strides towards becoming major players. The increasing demand profile of the emerging economies is, however, offset by continuing inflationary concerns.”


New York, ranked as the most costly city to build in, is 50% more costly than Wellington. Second most expensive internationally was London, 47% more costly than Wellington.         


Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


Attribution: Rider Levett Bucknall release, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Energy efficiency jumps ahead of leaky buildings as research priority

Published 7 October 2007Energy use & efficiency have overtaken leaky buildings as the construction industry’s primary concern for future research.

The annual survey of research needs by the independent industry association Building Research showed the energy topics were followed by sustainability & environmental issues.

Chief executive Sunil Vather said energy use & efficiency had a 75% importance rating, sustainability & environment issues 65%, materials performance 63% and building envelope performance, including weathertightness, 61%.

“This suggests the industry is looking for ways to ensure the built environment is not only fit for purpose but that it is energy efficient & environmentally sustainable,” Dr Vather said.

The survey covered builders, subcontractors, architects & designers, building product manufacturers, building owners & managers and central & local government.

Last year’s survey ranked the building envelope as the most important research area, and in 2005 materials performance (including weathertightness) was seen as the most important. The 2007 survey was undertaken during June-July and 218 completed questionnaires were received – a response rate of 33%.

Building Research uses the survey as one of its measures to identify the industry’s priorities for future research & information and to help guide its investment of the building research levy. Under the Building Research Levy Act, builders are required to pay a levy on all construction contracts over $20,000 at a rate of $1:$1000. The act requires the levy to be used to promote & conduct research & other scientific work in connection with the building & construction industry. The budget for the next year is up to 20% to $8.475 million. Dr Vather said Building Research was currently funding 4 energy research projects, including the household energy end-use survey and research into the energy efficiency of non-residential buildings. It’s also funding 4 sustainable building projects and is a shareholder & partner of Beacon Pathway Ltd, the sustainable residential buildings research consortium. Dr Vather said Building Research had also commissioned information & seminars on weathertightness, including weathertightness details for roof & wall junctions. 2 other projects underway are helping fund the development of the Level website to promote sustainable building practices, and working with industry partners on the development of the GreenBuild website. Other initiatives have included the production of publications and eco-advisory initiatives with several city councils. Building Research also owns BRANZ Ltd, which operates separately as a commercial organisation to deliver research, testing, consultancy & educational services. BRANZ draws less than 40% of its income from investments by Building Research.

Websites: Building ResearchBRANZGreenBuildLevel

Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].

Attribution: Building research release, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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BRANZ to release research on aiming for carbon-neutral housing

Published 18 August 2007BRANZ Ltd will release research on household energy use at a seminar in Wellington on Tuesday 28 August. Principal scientist Nigel Isaacs said: “A sustainable society with a carbon-neutral economy will not happen just by building more renewable electric generation. It will require understanding today’s energy use & tomorrow’s alternatives.” The seminar will report on the final results from the household energy end-use project, which has examined energy use in a random sample of 400 houses from Invercargill to Kaikohe. The project now provides new knowledge on living conditions, fuel poverty, household winter & summer temperatures, hot water, lighting, refrigeration & the use of appliances. The one-day Wellington seminar on 28 August will be of interest to housing researchers, policy analysts, programme planners, practitioners, researchers and students interested in housing and opportunities to meet the challenges of climate change. The seminar, Housing into the future – stepping towards carbon neutrality, will be at Victoria University’s School of Architecture, 139 Vivian St, Tuesday 28 August at 9-5.  Website: BRANZ seminar information 

Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].

Attribution: Company release, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Construction industry’s top 4 research needs are envelope, energy efficiency, materials & sustainability

Published 29 November 2006

A construction industry survey has highlighted 4 aspects as the most important areas for research:


the building envelope
energy use & efficiency
the performance of building materials, and
sustainability & the environment.

Research NZ undertook the survey for Building Research, the independent industry association, to identify priorities. Building Research will use the survey findings to guide its investment of the building research levy.

Building Research chief executive Sunil Vather said: “We’ve surveyed the industry every year since 1995 and believe this is the first time the industry’s top 4 priorities for future research all received an importance rating of 70% or more.”

More than half of the builders, subcontractors, architects & designers, building product manufacturers, building owners & managers and central & local government people surveyed rated joint & junction detailing, rain penetration and assessment of new building materials as being important topics.

Energy efficiency and sustainability & environmental issues, including insulation efficiency and energy efficient heating & cooling systems, were seen as important by more than a third of those surveyed.

Building Research has budgeted $7 million to invest this year on research & information transfer, an increase of almost 17% on 2005-06.

Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


Attribution: Building research release, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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