Gladstone builder in bid to build 2200 aluminium homes

A RETIRED Clinton builder could soon become the brains behind the homes thousands of Fijians will live in, that are made almost completely out of aluminium.

John Baldock is hopeful he will be awarded the tender to re-build 2200 homes that were destroyed during Cyclone Winston.

His plan? To build them from Gladstone aluminium so some of the money comes back to the city that he and wife Lynn have spent 43 years.

But, as he's now finding out, there's little chance of that happening.

John Baldock looking over his building design that could soon be popping up all over Fiji.
John Baldock looking over his building design that could soon be popping up all over Fiji. Paul Braven

There's even less chance of him getting his hands on any Australian aluminium; the industry has shrunk that much in the past two years, despite being the largest producer of bauxite, the main ingredient in aluminium.

Our local smelter, Boyne Smelters Limited, doesn't have the capability to make slab aluminium, the type of material used to make sheets of aluminium that can be used to make homes.

The last smelter that made slab aluminium in Australia was Alcoa which shut down in 2014 due to low aluminium prices.

The only option is to now look at Asian aluminium manufacturers to get the 10,000 tonnes required.

It's a let down for Mr Baldock who believes that if the initial 2200 homes went as planned the Fijians would want a further 60,000 homes.

Since the cyclone he has been to Fiji twice to talk to government officials about his proposal and after taking two hours to explain his design believed he is a 95% chance of getting the job.

A spokesperson for the Fijian government confirmed they had been in talks even though he missed the closing date of the tender application and engineers would take a couple of months to review his plan.

The tender requires the homes to be simple and strong enough to handle a category five cyclone.

They will have a room that is 7.2m long and 4.8m wide with the exterior walls made out of a aluminium sheets weldered together, covered in foam and Gyprock.

"You can render them just like any home but if you punch the walls the only damage you will do is to your hand," Mr Baldock said.

The one main room will sleep an entire family and they will share a bathroom with a shower and toilet without running water.

And there will be no kitchen under the curved roof, to the government's request.

"There are no studs and no trusses and it is very quick to build," he said.

"It's half the price of all the other tenders."

If he wins the contract Mr Baldock will teach the Fijians how to build the homes.

"I told them I will have to teach them how to build and they would have to get engineering welders," he said.

Once that happens he will try and use this building technique in Australia.

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