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Innovation gives Cottages NZ an edge

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kate de Lautour

Innovation gives Cottages NZ an edge


A commitment to research and development by Cottages New Zealand, has allowed the locally based construction business a gateway into the nationwide education sector.

Perfecting the advantages of solar power could provide a solution to one of the education sector’s key financial woes – the power bill.

A major component of operational costs within a school is electricity, but how do we best harness an alternative power source in our school’s buildings?

That was the question John Roil from Cottages New Zealand wanted to answer, and the research has been made possible with a grant from Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI).

“In 2011 we met with boards of trustees and principals of local schools to discuss the future replacements of around three hundred school buildings over the next 2 years.”

At the same time, the principals voted unanimously on Cottages NZ researching solar energy and how best it could be utilised on school buildings.

The research project aimed to investigate the types of solar energy systems available to the market, and find those most suited to the country’s schools.

A year on and a system is now established at Cottages NZ capable of capturing solar power via  photo voltaic cells, built into the roof. This is then converted to electricity, sent to the grid, and the power generated is credited back to the school by the local provider.

There’s no doubt that schools are becoming more reliant on the pre-fabricated building technology afforded by Cottages New Zealand.

St John’s College in Hastings recently discovered some offices that were deemed not to meet Hastings District Council’s earthquake standards and needed strengthening work.

The school averted any disruption thanks to Cottages New Zealand.

As a result of a partnership with EIT Hawke’s Bay, a near complete classroom building was sitting waiting in the wings in their Hastings workshop. It then took just nine days for Cottages New Zealand to have the new building operational and ready for the start of term two.

John Roil was quick to praise the swift mobilization of the consents process in order to achieve the record result.

“We contacted the Hastings District Council as an urgent project, planned the engineering work for the foundations and the fire design, followed by the site plan, all in a day or so.”

 The building was moved the following week and all the decorating, data cabling and partitions were completed within a week.

A second research project, also funded by MSI, has investigated how totally pre-fabricated building panels can be made compliant.

 The idea is to make easily transportable building panels, with services in place, including insulation. These panels could make construction in remote areas, easier and more efficient.

The main issues to be researched are the engineering connections to hold the walls to floor, walls to roof and walls to wall.

“We have developed these systems and an engineer has signed off the connections as an alternative solution to the Building Code.”

This information will provide the core design for future modular buildings and while providing a cost effective for schools, it will provide an answer for crisis-hit areas, namely Christchurch, as well.

“We’re on the brink of changing the nature of the transportable building industry in New Zealand,” John Roil says.

The issue surrounds a perception that prefabricated classrooms are temporary or substandard to onsite construction.

“Modern construction methods mean that buildings constructed offsite will consistently reach a higher standard of construction than onsite construction will achieve.

“These buildings are permanent structures to the 50 year durability of the Building Code, the same construction materials are used onsite as within a factory environment.

“However unlike onsite construction we do guarantee less disruption to the school, less waste, better purchasing power and shorter construction times.”

For more information on the support available to businesses for research and development through the Ministry of Science and Innovation refer to www.hbhothouse.co.nz and www.msi.govt.nz