Pamela Bell—BArch 2003, MArch 2009

Pamela Bell is the founder and former chief executive of PrefabNZ, and is one of New Zealand’s leading advocates for sustainable innovative building methods.

Ms Bell came to prominence as a sportswoman, competing in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan as New Zealand’s first Olympic snowboarder. She went on to found the New Zealand Snowboard Academy along with her own snowboarding clothing company, Fruition Snow System.

After completing a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture at Victoria University of Wellington, Ms Bell worked in the profession and undertook aid work in Africa, before returning to New Zealand to raise her family and complete a Master’s degree focused on prefabricated housing. Her research prompted her to organise a Kiwi Prefab Workshop at the Wellington Faculty of Architecture and Design Innovation, which was attended by more than 140 attendees who called for an industry organisation to be established. Pamela took up this challenge and founded PrefabNZ.

Under her leadership, PrefabNZ has showcased innovative prefabricated buildings nationwide and organised a number of major events to educate industry, government, and the broader public about how offsite construction can address housing shortages and improve the sustainability of our future housing. The group numbers almost 400 member organisations and advocates for the numerous advantages that prefabrication offers to increase quality, save time, improve health and safety, and reduce material waste. As well as stimulating discussion in New Zealand, PrefabNZ has inspired similar movements in other countries, such as prefabAUS in Australia.

As well as functioning as an advocacy group, PrefabNZ actively encourages innovation in building methods by sowing seeds and showcasing best practice. One example is the 2015 UNIpod design competition for an open-source universally accessible bathroom and kitchen pod, designed specifically for multi-unit residential applications. The winning design was made into a prototype that was launched at the PrefabNZ CoLab conference in Auckland in 2016. The design is open-source and available for all to use, a first for New Zealand.

More recently, the SNUG ‘home in my backyard’ design competition attracted 86 high-quality secondary or accessory housing options, with 12 winning designs launched at PrefabNZ’s CoLab 2019.