Expertise with concrete underpins award-winning rural build firm

Expertise with concrete underpins award-winning rural build firm
Rural Building Solutions’ Alan Dean (construction manager) with owners Nigel and Ruth Hodges at the New Zealand Master Builders Commercial Project Awards in Auckland in May. The silver award was for a full dairy facility for North Canterbury farmers Peter and Kristy Schouten (at right).

Making dairy shed dreams come true is all in a day’s work for Darfield’s Rural Building Solutions Limited (RBS), which won Silver at May’s New Zealand Master Builders Commercial Project Awards in Auckland. Only their second entry in the awards, this latest success builds on their inaugural silver-winning entry in 2016.
These national awards recognise New Zealand’s outstanding commercial construction work across both urban and rural sectors.
Owners Nigel and Ruth Hodges have long been committed to raising the bar when it comes to commercial building standards in the rural sector and, through RBS they continue to deliver on that commitment by providing high quality dairy shed design and build services across Canterbury.
The latest silver award was for a full dairy facility for North Canterbury’s Waipapa Farm, owned by Peter and Kristy Schouten, whose request was for a dream milking facility that would look great, work well for staff and cows, and fit within the property’s layout and environmental regulatory context.
The final layout, ticking all the boxes for Peter and Kristy, includes a 60 bail rotary shed, 5036m² feed pad, silage bunkers and effluent management system.
“This facility fully embraces the future direction of dairying with environmental innovations such as effluent recycling, solar power and feed pads,” Nigel says.
“It has really taken things to the next level and has been a fantastic example of getting things right first time.”
An open day at Waipapa Farm to view the new facility attracted a big turnout that has also resulted in new clients and new projects for RBS.
Success in the rural build sector relies upon those involved having the right skills and experience to deliver finished results that will endure and function well.
Concrete makes up about 60 per cent of RBS dairy sheds and yards, so knowing how to manage this versatile and durable material well has been fundamental.
Nigel is a qualified structural concrete specialist, with considerable expertise in controlling all the variables associated with using perishable concrete. He says he can even tell by the sound of the concrete in the truck if it is the right mix.
Having done a number of builds after the Kaikoura earthquake, Nigel has noticed regional differences between Mid-Canterbury and Kaikoura sands used in concrete.
“These differences have to be taken into account when specifying the concrete mix to be used,” he observes, adding that wind, rain, heat and cold are additional variables that can affect the behaviour of concrete.
“It’s not all down to nature though, because part of managing this perishable product is determining what to add or leave out of the mix. Additives such as accelerants and set-retardants can be used to manage the properties of concrete during particularly hot or cold weather.”
Getting the concrete recipe just right is particularly important for specialist projects such as Waipapa Farm’s silage bunkers, where acidic silage juices can potentially eat into concrete.
Special additions can be made to counteract that corrosion. Nigel says a common misconception is that concrete dries as it sets.
In fact, the opposite is true with water required to ensure concrete can harden properly without cracking. Keeping newly placed concrete damp is a top priority. “This can be a challenge in remote rural sites with limited water sources but we have always found a solution.”
Nigel and his team are highly experienced in managing all of concrete’s idiosyncrasies and fi nd it the ideal foundation for their award winning dairy sheds.
When time allows, Nigel enjoys helping the team on site and keeping his hand in, working with the concrete that really is the cornerstone of the ongoing RBS success story.
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