Is Australia ready for modular construction projects?

Modular Construction & Prefabrication Summit
July 17, 2013

As the industrial world tightens its belt on capital expenditure across the board, companies are under pressure to deliver more in ever-limiting environments. Modular construction is igniting innovation with significant advances in process and technology; it’s attracting attention across the international arena for benefits pertaining to operational efficiency, cost effectiveness, and sustainability.

Ahead of the the 4th Modular Construction & Prefabrication Summit 2013 I spoke with Juliet Jiang, vice president of Broad Group, the company responsible for designing, fabricating, and erecting the T30 Hotel in China, who hails modular prefabrication as a one-stop solution for elevating efficiency
standards. “There’s no reason why people shouldn’t use it. They save money, it’s more efficient, and it creates more jobs for the government,” she said.

The T30 Hotel was constructed in 15 days, and made media headlines worldwide. Jiang indicated that it was “because of the weather conditions and the fact that time is money” which spurred efforts to complete construction in such a short timeframe.

More than 90% of construction took place in manufacturing sites and there was a streamlined process which allowed for an optimised approach; in effect, removing the need to carry out impractical or tedious tasks. For example, trucks were able to transport modules directly to the construction site, and have them lifted straight onto the building.

Structures like the T30 Hotel adhere to a number of qualities for meeting sustainability standards too, including material saving (requiring only 68 kilograms per square metre for steel construction), earthquake resistance, energy conservation, and durability; it has a 600-year life span, and can withstand magnitude-9 earthquakes and 10-force winds.

Construction expense was still kept below that of traditional means, as Jiang explained: “In China for example, our cost for this kind of construction is 10 to 30% lower than conventional methods. And from the environmental aspect, it cuts CO2 emissions.”

The Broad Sustainable Building (BSB) projects see 0% injury rates while maintaining remarkable construction speeds for all projects, and complete elimination of fire hazard potential due to no welding requirements. And, under BSB technology, structures like the T30 Hotel have a 1% construction waste and leading energy efficiency standards.

“We say five times more energy efficient, but actually it’s much more; it’s the equipment selection itself that can indicate efficiency,” Jiang said. “For 17,000 square metres, conventionally, people need to select 2.3 megawatts for the air conditioning but we are using 233 kilowatts. We have also adopted 15-centimetre rock wool insulation, 4-paned glass windows, and heat recovery fresh air machines.”

The marvel behind the construction of this project provokes the question: is Australia ready to embrace modular construction to this scale as a commercial solution?

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Modular Construction & Prefabrication Summit
The Modular Construction & Prefabrication Summit has a loyal following of attendees from the energy & resources and construction & engineering industries. The event combines best practice case study sessions from modular thought leaders from the across resource sector and explores modular innovation taking place in the residential, retail and commercial sectors.
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