Article | Adaptive Spaces
Raising the standard at Hautapu
Ahead of the Property Industry Awards on 23 June, a recent visit to Profile Group’s Hautapu manufacturing facility just outside Cambridge – the 2022 CBRE Industrial Property Award winner – reminded us where the standard for greenfield industrial property development sits.
June 21, 2023
As you exit State Highway 1 and turn from fields into the driveway at 137 Swayne Road, a spectacular approach to raising the bar strikes you in everything you see. Trundling down the lengthy drive towards one of the biggest manufacturing facilities in the country, you can’t help but wonder if you’re heading towards a new airport, such is the scale and quality of design on offer. The immaculate lawns on either side are populated with thousands of beautifully tended plants around swales and lakes that double as stormwater and fire-fighting resources.
Hautapu is the new manufacturing hub for Profile Group, a family of businesses that together form New Zealand’s only integrated aluminium supply chain for window and door solutions. Profile Group is more commonly known in the architecture and building industries by its subsidiary APL Window Solutions and brands Altherm Window Systems, First Windows & Doors and Vantage Windows & Doors. As they’ve grown, they’ve developed an end-to-end service for their customers that covers every major step in the supply chain process, delivering APL’s systems and parts directly to APL manufacturers all over New Zealand. Once inside the building, the true scale of the group’s ambition and approach is revealed, piece by piece.
Immediately obvious is the manufacturing hub, a vast thrumming line that runs from one end of the 437 metre-long, 44,915sqm building to the other. Equivalent to six rugby fields under one roof, this immense 144m-wide facility houses Architectural Glass Products (AGP), New Zealand's leading manufacturer of high-performance double glazing, supplying the glass used in APL’s Window Systems and APL Manufacturing, as well as entrance doors, hardware and accessory products.
Designed to enable a 50+ year strategyAlthough scale is the first aspect that makes an impression, it is Profile Group’s approach to business, sustainability and the circular economy - embedded into every aspect of the design, construction and operation of the building and manufacturing process - that reveals quite how far forward this facility, and Profile Group themselves, have moved ahead.
As Mikayla Plaw, Executive Director of Profile Group and General Manager of Sustainability and People, explains, “This facility has been designed to accommodate our 50+ year strategy. When Grandad started the business out of a garage nearby at Bellevue Road, a crystal ball would have been the only thing to see us set up camp again down the road 50 years later. The businesses moved to Hamilton after Grandad passed away in the early 70s. Slowly Dad and the core team started to develop the various business units so that we could control the quality service offering for our customers and the design and innovation aspect of our end product. Glass was the last piece of the puzzle in 2020. We needed to enter the glass industry for our customers’ sake, and that was the catalyst for our move here.
We looked at land closer to Hamilton, and found that we could have built a building to meet our manufacturing needs, but we wanted to gradually move all our people into a single greenfield site, and there was not enough room in Hamilton to do so. So this site is first of all about efficiency, in a great location next to the expressway.”
Plaw says that planning for the development began in 2017, aided by David Bunting, an expert Kiwi working for Guardian Glass in the US. “Dave designed the plant, leading it with our CEO Craig Vincent and Dad,” says Plaw. “Without Dave we wouldn’t have taken the leap. A number of plant tours took place around the world to see what best practice looked like when you have a blank canvas to work with. Key to the design and efficient production practices was the building’s length so we could operate a straight production line.”
Construction got underway in 2019Construction wasn’t without its challenges, as the first glass unit came off the line in March 2020 and the building was not quite finished. “Building the facility and a high-precision production line together as we went was a challenge,” says Plaw. “Managing dust during an ongoing build was almost as difficult as designing the building to ensure it had enough natural daylight. The engineering that went into the 5,400sqm of skylights was pretty monstrous, as they go right down the centre line of the roof.”
This wasn’t the only challenge of the build, as the business was keen to showcase its glass products in the build, says Plaw. “This meant that we could only install glass for the building when it was ready to be created on-site. We finally got to a point when the plant was in, so we could start producing the glass to finish the building.”
Then came the immediate new test of COVID, which understandably meant prioritising manufacturing ahead of some of the amenities to provide a great working life for Profile Group’s 280 people now working on-site through two shifts. Nonetheless, Hautapu contains 3,460sqm of office space, of a quality that wouldn’t look out of place in central Auckland, as well as amenities that include multiple staff rooms and decks, and even a wine bar and events space.
Supporting staff through relocation and changeOnce ready for occupation, managing the challenges of relocation and change became a priority for staff and for the management team. These were overcome through a change management plan that fortunately became redundant reasonably quickly due to the approach that was taken.
Plaw adds that the surrounding landscape and investment in the immediate environment has been a real bonus for Profile Group’s people too. “Our people were incredibly grateful to see greenery. With outdoor areas to sit at lunch, and 22,000 plants in the ground to date, our people can get away from the factory feel. Our people are excited to have space in their working environment too, which is a big one for us. From a health and safety perspective, being able to spread out and lay things out means we can do more things more effectively and more safely.”
Focus on circularity and lifting environmental standardsPlaw says that what drives her forwards as a passionate sustainability practitioner is the ecological enhancement of the site. “Anything we do as a family and a group we want to do really well. We want to make it add value to the community and to the environment. Outside, we prioritised the waterways, doing lots of riparian planting and ecological work on nearby streams. We collect water off our 52,410sqm roof, which goes into our storage pond which can contain three million litres for firefighting, grey water and irrigation. 20% of our site is dedicated to wetland and riparian planting, with enhanced ecology and water sensitive design principles in place to replicate natural water systems and recharge the wetlands basin.
“People are now studying the frogs that have returned to the area, which is a great ecosystem indicator. We also planted thousands of native grasses and flaxes - all grown from our own nearby Karapiro nurseries thanks to our relationship with Sanctuary Mountain, Maungatautari – to absorb water.”
The building is also bristling with environmental features. Passive design elements include an energy-efficient façade that combines high levels of insulation including an R4.0 warm roof and cladding, double-glazed low-e IGUs for all offices and high performance glass to skylights, plus vertical sun-shade louvres to east and west office elevations minimise solar gain. The post tensioned factory slab was designed to reduce embodied carbon, and the cross-laminated timber floors in the offices combine with Kingspan packing waste re-purposed as insulation to the perimeter foundations onsite to reduce carbon further.
“We are super proud that we achieved 90% waste diversion from landfill during construction,” says Plaw. “For example, our roofing came in polystyrene packing that is now in our kerbside retaining walls. Repurposing materials that we have historically deemed as a waste material makes for a real success story.”
Plaw says that this focus on circularity and lifting environmental standards has also been applied to the manufacturing process. “At 90 metres, the facility offers the shortest finished IGU journey from plant to installation. Numerous colour-coded method recycling bins are obvious throughout the factory, used frequently by the people working on the floor. We’re recycling soft plastics and reusing them where we can through our plastics division PPL. They go into the bin, get sent off to Astron, and then used again at our factory in Hamilton to make product.
Profile Group are continuing to look for improvement opportunities in every aspect of what they do, future-proofing the business and the way they operate. “We have a massive opportunity, and cost savings to be had throughout the organisation. We have to move away from needing virgin material and new resources. Fortunately, we have so much capability in this business, and it is part of our culture. Our people are more open to exposing the problems and working on solutions for a less impactful future.”
Many lessons learned along the wayProfile Group’s approach to raising the standard involves “keeping it real, always learning,” says Plaw. “The lessons we have learned can help others: we are transparent so we can inspire others, hopefully. Lessons so far learned include future proofing office space. We already need more, which is a pro and a con as it does bring great jobs to great communities; we just have to house everyone.
“Another lesson is about food: specifically, access to lunch and amenities. In Hamilton you have everything around you. For people who have never brought their lunch to work, it’s a big change to come to a greenfield site. We have invested in a food truck; just working on a chef for any readers out there...”
What's next for Profile Group?The next step is to move other businesses within the group to this site, says Plaw. “We have 280 people here now, and there are 1,000 of us in the group. We just have to tackle inflated construction costs to justify the next building. Not easy with the current environment in New Zealand, and we’re in the industry.”
This, she says, is the first stage of a multi-hectare campus development project that will bring all the businesses in the group together over time. “We have outgrown our extrusion site, and although we are realistic that a downturn is coming, we want to meet the market when it comes back up. We have designed the plant and been to look at the technology for the extrusion press, taking it all on another step.
“Long-term, everyone in the group will be based here. There will be two more manufacturing buildings to be constructed next door, and we’re talking about a wellness centre, swimming pool, basketball courts, cycleways, and more. A real hub for the future of our business, our people, and our customers all around the North Island.”
Raising the bar indeed.