Modular commercial design produces cost-effective result

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An artist's impression of the $35 million Sudima Kaikoura hotel.

A rare large-scale commercial development in Kaikoura that promises to reignite tourism and the local economy is on track to be at least 20% more economical to build than average, thanks to its clever modular design.

The $35 million, four-storey Sudima Kaikoura hotel is now almost fully enclosed, and will be the town’s first ever 4.5 star hotel when it opens in September 2021.

The window installation will begin this month, followed by the internal fit-out.

Kirk Roberts Consulting is responsible for the hotel’s design, engineering and project management, and chief executive Jade Kirk believes it will be one of the most cost-effective hotels ever built in New Zealand on a per-room basis.

“The hotel is very economical, and that was our philosophy from day one. The build cost is getting up to 20 to 25% less than what you’d typically expect for a hotel of that scale.

“And that’s including the fact the hotel is in a relatively remote New Zealand location, which always adds a premium to your build costs.”

Kirk Roberts is tasked with delivering an elegant architectural building that doesn’t inhibit or distract from the natural beauty of the environment.

But Kaikoura has provided some unique challenges. A shortage of resources, material and skilled labour in the region was immediately evident, along with limited accommodation to house site workers.

Kaikoura is still recovering from the November 2016 earthquake, and prior to Covid-19, the Sudima chain wanted the hotel built as quickly as possible, so time frames were tight.

The solution was for the design to be as modular as possible. Specialist concrete panels, timber internal walls and floors have all been constructed in Christchurch and trucked to site for assembly.

“A modular approach has not only helped us to overcome site and labour challenges, it also reduces waste and increases the efficiency of the build,” Kirk says.

“For example, the bathrooms can be produced concurrently rather than sequentially, as is the norm with on-site construction.

“Kaikoura is so remote from key construction companies and suppliers that if we hadn’t modularised and really controlled the design, the cost overruns could have been quite substantial.

“It has allowed us to de-risk the project from a construction and design basis.”

A modular approach has been embraced overseas, and is a developing area in New Zealand. Kirk is proud of the fact that almost all components have been manufactured or supplied by Kiwi companies.

“It shows that if we design things correctly in New Zealand, and we have good integration and planning around projects, we can actually build really economically without too many issues.”

Kirk points out that it costs a lot of money to transport fully-constructed modules for hundreds of kilometres along the South Island’s east coast.

“So we work on the basis that every component is panelised and comes in ready, fit for purpose and just ‘clicks’ into its position.

“Everything is manufactured and curated in a controlled environment, and arrives on site to be put into place with a minimum amount of labour.

“What that allows us to do is control quality, speed up the build process, and control costs and quantities.

“What you don’t have is down-time or mistakes, because everything has to be detailed and the sequencing has to be planned.”

To do this successfully requires a lot of front-end planning, design and IP which Kirk Roberts has been refining over many years.

“It requires higher fees and, therefore, a bigger investment in design to begin with, but the pay-off is it saves a considerable amount of money in the long run.”

Once it’s opened, the 118-bed hotel is expected to be a major drawcard for domestic — and, eventually, international — tourists.

The Sudima Kaikoura will have its own bar, restaurant and conference facility, and offer luxury accommodation in one of New Zealand’s most scenic spots.