Safe, healthy homes: Fraemohs Homes

The Christchurch and the Kaikōura earthquakes and their aftershocks felt as if they were trying to tear the land in two.

The aftermath separated Cantabrians into two groups as well: those whose properties were devastated, and those whose homes came through the trials with little damage.

One home remained completely unscathed following the 7.8 earthquake in Waiau near Kaikōura, despite the home being positioned just 100 metres from the fault line. Many other homes and buildings in the same small town were decimated and in ruins. The location of the fault had been hitherto unknown to geologists and engineers. For those families, life was unsettled for years to come while waiting for attention and then repairs or rebuilds organised through the phases, often covering EQC, insurance, design, then finally construction processes. They moved out and moved in, some of them several times over. They could have done without it.

For the lucky owners of Fraemohs homes, the years after the shakes continued with less stress. Their earthquake proof homes from the Solid Timber range performed exceptionally well during the earthquakes. “We regularly have owners of our Solid Timber homes contact us or write public reviews saying how safe they felt in their homes during the earthquakes,” says Amanda van der Kley, business development manager at Fraemohs.

One delighted owner says, “Our 1981 Fraemohs home on poles in Mt Pleasant had no damage requiring repair other than a hot water cylinder. Recommend!” while another reported “We have just moved to a property with a 70s original Fraemohs house, it rolled with the quake but we still felt safe, unlike the Christchurch house that broke apart on February 11,” while a Kaikōura earthquake home owner says “I was in Hanmer in a wooden Fraemohs chalet trying to fix my phone while my wife watched a TV movie when the first big 7.5 hit. I have to say the chalet was great–strong as a boat in a storm as we rocked and rolled. It was built on a good, thick concrete pad and the interlocking beam walls performed perfectly.” There are many more very positive comments from happy Fraemohs home-owners on the website.

“Our homes move with the earth through the interlocking timber system,” says Amanda. “Imagine a formidable athlete who can bench press 10 times his or her body weight yet moves with the grace and elegance of a ballerina. The combination of strength and flexibility is at the core of why our Solid Timber homes perform as they do in earthquakes.”

The team point out that trying to resist nature is a fool’s game. Embracing nature and working with it is both smart and sustainable. “When the wind blows, a tree moves with the wind. If it didn’t, it would break. When the earth moves, our Solid Timber homes move with the earth through the interlocking timber system,” says Amanda.

Structurally tested

Keen to know just how strong their system really is, Fraemohs decided to have their walls tested with earthquake simulation machinery (P21 testing) at Scion, the Crown Research Institute in Rotorua. “Their machinery was unable to break our walls on its highest setting,” says Amanda.

After the testing, the timber wall was inspected closely and not a speck of damage was found. “In your mind, compare that to how you expect a regular plasterboard wall would perform in a test like this (or an actual earthquake). A plasterboard wall would probably be in ruins. Even a minor earthquake can severely damage plasterboard walls,” says Amanda.

Remarkably, the Fraemohs Homes buildings that performed so well during the earthquakes were from the old range, often decades old. “We have since updated the design, which makes our homes even safer, warmer, and contemporary in design.”


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