Steel framing business booming in Picton

17 February 2016

A Picton business has expanded from supplying building materials to producing steel framing, which is being used in classrooms around the country.

Picton ITM managing director Gary Knofflock said the company first experimented with steel framing three years ago, following a downturn in sales from the Canterbury earthquakes.

This was because of a loss in business from Christchurch bach owners in the Marlborough Sounds, Knofflock said.

He approached Framecad, a New Zealand company that produced framing machines, and became one of their licensed fabricators, leasing two machines which he operated from a building across the road from Picton ITM.

The machines were capable of producing framing for a house per day, with Knofflock estimating he went through between 75 kilometres and 100 kilometres of steel per year.

The business had supplied steel frames for a Christchurch subdivision, for houses in Twizel and Blenheim and was now expanding to do work for the Ministry of Education, creating wall, roof and floor framing for classrooms.

This was on a sub-contracting basis, through Interlink Modular, a division of Portacom New Zealand Limited.

Knofflock said he had produced frames for nine buildings, on a trial basis for securing the work, which included classrooms in Kaikoura and Taranaki.

He would now be producing and assembling a 100-metre squared classroom a week, to be transported from Picton to the Interlink factory in Christchurch.

On top of this, Knofflock was also helping the Framecad factory in Auckland meet an order for three apartment buildings in Chile, filling five 40-foot shipping containers with frames.

The advantages of steel framing, which was lighter than timber and flame resistant, meant he was expecting demand to increase, Knofflock said.

"The general trend overseas is that there is a far greater proportion of steel frame houses than in New Zealand," he said.

"We're just a bit slow to learn."

Knofflock said steel framing was around 60 to 70 per cent lighter than timber framing, which made it easier to transport and assemble.

This factor, combined with the high rents in Christchurch, meant it was viable to run a steel framing business out of Picton and service the South Island, he said.

Following the Canterbury earthquakes, the Marlborough District Council and the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce led a delegation of businesses down to Christchurch to assess the opportunities for Marlborough businesses.

Knofflock credited this trip for helping him see a Picton steel framing business as viable.

It also helped him cement his connection with Framecad, he said.

As a result of the increased demand, Knofflock said he would be looking for Marlborough developers who would use the product.

He also had plans to increase his truck fleet from two to four, in order to meet demand, as well as building a new warehouse to relocate the Picton ITM into a more centralised location.

Knofflock owned property that stretched between York St and Devon St.

He planned to move the retail store into this section and to shift the steel framing factory to the existing retail site.

This would create additional jobs and provide more work for Marlborough contractors, he said.


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