By Marta Steeman, The Press
New Zealand steel workshops are trying to head off any large scale importation of structural steel into Christchurch and Auckland with a new certification scheme.
Lobby group Steel Construction New Zealand and the Heavy Engineering Research Association have launched a new Steel Fabricator Certification (SFC) scheme.
Steel Construction NZ manager Alastair Fussell said the scheme was voluntary and designed to give developers, builders and the construction industry confidence in the process around the production of structural steel in New Zealand.
It would be “a mark of quality” in which a company’s people, training and processes were independently audited by external parties.
Eight prefabrication steel companies received the certification late last week when the scheme was launched with the support of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.
Two of those – Chapman Engineering and John Jones Steel – are two of the city’s biggest structural steel producers.
Fussell said the current compliance process for structural steelwork relied on self-inspection.
“The recent boom in construction activity centred on Christchurch and Auckland has seen an increase in the amount of imported prefabricated steelwork entering New Zealand.”
He said there had been cases where paperwork was missing and the steelwork did not meet the required specification leading to expensive project delays.
About 80 per cent of steelwork fabrication was done by the top 10 companies which included Chapman Engineering, John Jones Steel and Pegasus Engineering.
The country had the capacity to produce about 110,000 tonnes of prefabricated steel a year but was probably producing about 60,000 tonnes at present and had plenty of spare capacity.
Construction company Calder Stewart had completed a large new steel fabrication plant in Milton in Southland, boosting the capacity of the South Island.
Chapman Engineering owner Chris Chapman said it had not been expensive for the company to secure certification because it already had most of the systems in place. “We had to do a bit more paperwork. Because of the size of us and the work we do we were already nearly there.”
John Jones Steel also achieved the certification. “It says Chapman and John Jones have a standard and they can trace all their work,” Chapman said.
It was streamlining the company’s operations and making it more efficient. Long term it would be a saving, Chapman said.
Before the earthquakes there had been very few steel structured buildings in Christchurch. “Christchurch and Canterbury was the cheapest place to produce concrete,” he said.
But building owners were shifting to steel which was lighter and it was “the one thing that stayed up well in the earthquakes.”
He said the certification system ensured fabricators met a minimum standard and engineers could have confidence that the companies were not “cowboys”.