Projects by Lendlease, Hickory Group and Aveo has helped propel Australia’s off-site construction sector into the spotlight, ahead of its third annual national conference in Sydney.
“In the last 12 months there’s been a real gathering of momentum, with more adoption of construction automation technologies, and some breakthrough projects,” said Warren McGregor, chief executive of PrefabAUS, the peak industry body.
“There’s been a real explosion of activity around engineered wood – cross laminated timber (CLT) in particular,” he said.
Highlights include LendLease’s International House Sydney project, Australia’s first CLT and Glulam (glued laminated timber) commercial building; Macarthur Gardens, a three tower residential CLT project being built by Strongbuild for community housing provider BlueCHP in Campbelltown and the recent topping out of Australia tallest prefabricated building 323 La Trobe Street, a 44 storey tower being built by Hickory Group in the Melbourne CBD.
A $65 million, 10 storey timber retirement village is also being built in Sydney by Strongbuild for retirement village developer Aveo Group.
While prefabrication remains a small part of the construction market, its acceptance is growing. Lendlease recently established its DesignMake CLT factory in Sydney while New Zealand timber products producer XLam announced they will open their first Australian CLT factory in Wodonga in 2017.
“Australia’s off-site construction industry is right up with the world leaders in many respects, and where it is not, it is catching up very fast,” Mr McGregor said.
Ryan E Smith, professor of architecture planning at the University of Utah and an international expert on off-site construction, will deliver the key note speech at the PrefabAUS conference in Sydney.
In it he will present global research findings which show that modular construction cuts costs by 16 per cent and reduces time by 45 per cent compared with traditionally-built projects.
His research will also show that mass timber construction compared with a traditional site build (across 18 cases) showed that mass timber projects were four per cent cheaper and delivered projects 20 per cent faster.
“The off-site construction industry has touted the benefits of prefabrication for decades, however there is little quantifiable evidence of these project performance benefits. This study worked to reveal these benefits,” Professor Smith said.
He added that the greatest challenges the construction industry was facing in adopting off-site methods included difficulties with the regulatory authorities, transportation logistics, coordination with designers, and industry knowledge.
Adam Strong, managing director of CLT construction firm Strongbuild, said using the prefabricated timber translated into less waste, fewer on-site construction resources and a safer, quieter, cleaner overall build site.
Strongbuild is undertaking over $100 million worth of CLT projects and produces prefabricated components from an 8000 square-metre manufacturing factory in Baulkham Hills. It has an exclusive partnership with Austrian company Binderholz to bring its product into the Australasian market.
“CLT has similar characteristics to concrete and steel yet is 80 per cent lighter than traditional structures. It also offers better thermal performance and requires less energy to heat and cool,” he said.
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