Growing consumer knowledge keeps builders on their toes

Having spent most of his working life in the building industry, Blair Chappell has witnessed some major changes along the way.

One of the most significant he has noticed is the increase in the knowledge of consumers.

“Home buyers are far more educated than they ever were,” he said. “Even those who don’t have a lot of knowledge are aware of the need to ask questions about the products they are buying.”

Among those products are the Hebel intertenancy wall systems and exterior cladding that are used by Blair and his business partner Matthew Horncastle in the work of Williams Specialised Property which they established in Christchurch three years ago, after having been in business together for the previous two years.

Whether or not his clients come to their new home projects with a knowledge of Hebel, Blair is happy to explain it to them or expand their awareness of its benefits.

“I like the fact that it’s an Australian made product, with good warranties behind it and a good trading history,” he said. “It also provides quality insulation and acoustics, and is quick to install and finish.

“It also provides an attractive finish. When I look down the side of a building I can generally spot which one is a Hebel house and which one is not, because the Hebel is straight and has a much better finish. It’s light years ahead of the competition on that front. Even if some people say they can’t see the difference, I’d choose to use Hebel from the moral standpoint of knowing I’m using a good product on the property.”

Quality, affordable housing for first home buyers

Three years ago, Blair and Matthew began doing their own developments, with the aim of providing quality, affordable housing for first home buyers. The business has grown quickly since then.

“In the first year of developing we built eight properties, and last year we did about eighteen,” said Blair. “This year we’ll do about 40 multi-residential units across six different projects, all close to the centre of Christchurch. They’ll comprise a mixture of one and two bedroom units with over 70% priced under $450,000.”

Hebel intertenancy walls and exterior cladding will be used on five of these developments with all six using the intertenancy system.

“Included in this is a mixed-use commercial building, with shops on the ground floor and five two-bedroom units above,” said Blair. “We’re using Hebel for the intertenancy walls, the flooring and quite a lot of the cladding on the building.”

A number of the stand-alone homes built by Williams Specialised Property also feature Hebel cladding.

Building up rather than out

Blair foresees a good future for the industry in the region including multi-residential construction.

“I think we have to accept that urban sprawl is not a sustainable way to build houses,” he said. “There’s a growing realisation that people have to build up rather than out. Also, a lot of the people in the current home buyers’ market are more interested in maximising their disposable income for such things as travel rather than buying big properties with land that needs maintenance.”

Blair believes consumer knowledge of building and building products will continue to grow, especially in a post-earthquake society such as Christchurch where so much rebuilding and renovation work has been carried out in the past few years.

“There’s going to be a turning point in construction where a builder can’t just build a house that looks nice and sell it,” he said. “There will come a time when all prospective home owners will be very specific about wanting to be sure of the quality and performance of the materials used throughout the construction of their home.”


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