On 18 October 2019 I was delighted to attend the 4th NZ Modular Construction and Pre-Fabrication Forum in Auckland, and being invited to speak to the diverse range of attendees from the public and private sector.

HomePlan NZ presented the topic of Using Building 3D Virtualization to Manage Quality in the Modular Supply Chain, based on our recent experience with a large government client delivering an accommodation solution working in New Zealand and abroad.  Yep, it’s a mouthful!

Below is a conversational version of the 40-minute presentation, which on the day included images and live examples for that client which unfortunately we are unable to share online (sorry!).  But please Contact Us if you would like to discuss how HomePlan can help support modular construction projects in New Zealand, including offshore quality assurance.

What is Building 3D Virtualization?

Building 3D Virtualization is creating a usable and accessible 3D digital copy of your home, property, premises, workplace or construction project. Methods of virtualizing a building or property are explained on our Tech Stuff page.

This practice is now commonplace in design and its use is growing use to capture ‘as built’ construction.  The two primary methods of doing this is by capturing point cloud data for use in specialist architectural software, and via photographic 3D virtual walkthroughs – the method utlized in this project.

Introducing CIMC Modular Building Systems (MBS)

CIMC MBS are a world-leading modular building provider based in Jiangmen, China with offices in Perth, Sydney and London.  Their factory-finished structures that form enclosed spaces then ‘click’ together using container constructs/technology.  Their modules are used internationally for hotels and student, workforce & prison accommodation.  The following video provides an overview of the CIMC MBS modular system.

Please refer www.cimc-mbs.com for more information, or click here to visit a HomePlan 3D Walkthrough of the CIMC Showroom in Jiangmen, China.

The Project: Modular Build of Accommodation Blocks

A New Zealand government agency commissioned almost 500 modular units from CIMC MBS via a NZ-based main contractor, to provide specialized additional accommodation.  The project delivers eight accommodation blocks installed at five existing sites nationwide and also uses separate main contractors to deliver the required site platform, infrastructure and support facility upgrades to support the increased modular capacity.

Each accommodation block was made up of 57 individual module units.  The comprehensive modular supply chain for these units project stretched across the globe with numerous sub-components sourced or pre-manufactured in Australia and the United States then shipped to CIMC MBS in China where the modules were manufactured and fitted out in three production runs/batches.  Each batch of modules was then shipped to New Zealand storage or direct to sites.

On the New Zealand sites, each accommodation block has a traditional foundation design and prefabricated roofing cassettes manufactured in New Zealand.  The general process is for the site and foundation to be prepared, the modules positioned on the foundations and the roofing cassettes placed over top, followed by finishing & commissioning.  At time of writing, this is currently underway by the modular main contractor at multiple sites.

The Offshore Quality Framework

The extensive quality assurance framework included:

  • Exhaustive due diligence of the supply chain, including the sourcing of raw materials, factory and labor conditions, and procurement terms.
  • Piloting, then three production phases/batches each incorporating lessons learnt.
  • Main contractor, qualified NZ tradespeople and Independent Quality Assurance (IQA) agents onsite at the CIMC MBS factory in China.
  • Dedicated CIMC defect management system (using QR codes).
  • Government representatives inspecting all modules prior to dispatch.

This extensive framework helped mitigate a number of minor challenges that were encountered in the offshore manufacture.  The project has suffered further issues and delays on New Zealand soil, noting these do not relate to quality issues from the CIMC MBS deliverables.

Time Slicing with HomePlan 3D Walkthroughs

HomePlan NZ 3D photographic walkthroughs were used to “time slice” the manufacture and installation process, as outlined below.

The client then used the HomePlan 3D Walkthrough ‘time slices’ throughout the construction phase.  Examples of this include:

  • Tracking minor yet widespread cracking of plaster joints prior to dispatch, after shipping and after site installation.
  • Identifying and resolving minor design/build-ability variations between production runs.
  • Recording damage in transit for use by insurance valuers (one incident involving 14 modules)
  • Capturing any onsite degradation for comparison back to pre-dispatch, and forward to Practical Completion.

Did it Help?

The client-side Quality Manager says “Yes – absolutely, it has been invaluable.  The quality of the 3D photos is outstanding and allows us to very quickly find and investigate any design or construction irregularities.  Its high resolution coverage shows everything, as it was at that point in time, and all at your fingertips within seconds.  I expect HomePlan’s service will be in high demand once other construction projects discover the benefits we have”.