• Father and son team, Brendan and Reginald Richards

    “There is a lot of prior art on wall prefabrication, but none has the features that give all the benefits and advantages of this system," says Senior Associate Mike Biagio.

Reginald Richard's new construction system might hold the key to rebuilding Christchurch. And meet global demand for quality, cost-effective housing.

Reginald Richards from RCP Holdings Limited has a simple and economical solution to rebuilding Christchurch after the Canterbury earthquakes.  A Master Builder with long experience in design and construction, he's created an innovative modular building system called IPanels. His lightweight refinement of the concrete tilt slab allows an average house to be assembled in just two days. They're environmentally friendly, remove weather tightness and fire issues, have good thermal characteristics, and initial prototypes have resisted the September 2011 earthquake damage.

"It's compatible with all existing forms of construction and complies with building regulations, so it's a great solution for rebuilding Christchurch," says Richards.

Having worked on his concept for the past four years, Richards approached us to help protect the idea. Mike Biagio, senior associate, has helped RCP Holdings file a provisional patent application and an international (PCT) patent application for the system, with a view to obtaining patent protection overseas in time.

"We've protected every component," says Biagio. "There is a lot of prior art on wall prefabrication, but none has the features that give all the benefits and advantages of IPanels."

Richards believes there is a good market for the IPanel system in earthquake-prone countries, Pacific nations requiring low-cost, easy-to-erect housing, and countries such as South Africa where concrete construction is favoured.

A New Zealand firm is already interested in obtaining the licensed technology rights to mass produce the panels here. RCP Holdings is about to build an architecturally designed demonstration house in Christchurch and has got council acceptance.

Richard's has now formed a team with DD Architects and builder Peter McGuire, who recognise the potential for IPanel, and has recently refined the system's framing component to use more versatile glass-fibre composite as well as steel.

"We've done it all on a shoestring, but Mike Biagio understood what we were trying to do - that it was a system, not just individual panels. That was important. Mike's been very supportive." 

Written by Deirdre Coleman, this case study was featured in #37 of Idealog. Photo courtesy of Dean MacKenzie.