Modular buildings – a way to increase the efficiency of a build?
There are a lot of advances in the construction industry which only seems to increase cost and project length. The trend of using prefabricated units for construction, something popular in Europe, reduces building time considerably. Despite a higher unit price, these prefabricated modules make up for it by driving down installation cost considerably.
“In the beginning of 2016 modular buildings made up only A$4.6 billion (or 3 percent) of Australia’s annual A$150 billion construction industry.” *1
However last year the University of Sydney and construction heavyweight Lendlease was awarded a $3 million Commonwealth government grant to research pre-fabricated multi-storey housing. A clear indication that this is a growing segment of the Australian market and something which will be even more affordable as the fabrication options increase. Lendlease launched its own manufacturing business in 2015, called DesignMake, specifically to design and construct pre-fabricated units.
The use of prefabrication is something which Lendlease is using at their high-profile project at Barangaroo, where WebFM’s Siteworks module is being utilised for defect management. They will design and build a six-storey commercial building totally from timber – called International House Sydney.
StrongBuild, another large builder, also announced their prefabrication facility in 2016 and recently delivered their first complete bathroom pod to their project Parklands Estate in Rouse Hill, NSW.
Cost Saving and other benefits
The most obvious way to saving time is of course at the point of installation. There are however a few less spoken of reasons below how you can save with prefabricated units. *3
1. Installation time greatly reduced
2. Higher quality production with increased unit consistency
3. Lower running costs as units are better insulated
4. Lowered risk and loss due to adverse weather
5. Labour costs as reduced skills set required on site
6. Reduced waste due to no offcuts
7. No spoilage of materials stored incorrectly
8. Time saved at site clean up
9. Design spec can be utilised to speed up and meet legislative requirements and approvals
In addition, using prefabricated modules allows great advances in sustainability. By utilising more sophisticated methods less resource intensive materials and processes can be used. For example, composite straw or hempcrete panels, something not widely known, can be utilised to greater lengths.
WebFM will be attending the 3rd Modular Construction and Pre-Fabrication Conference in Sydney in March next year to find out more on this subject and hope to see you there.