Is Australia ready for modular construction projects?

Modular Construction & Prefabrication Summit
July 17, 2013

There are inherent advantages of modular construction from which Australian companies benefit,
some including:

  • Reduced building timeframes, with the flexibility of simultaneous construction onsite and offsite, and, in effect, minimising material delivery interruptions and weather delays.
  • Increased cost assurance, enticing reduced initial groundwork preparation and a decreased number of required onsite trades, distributions and worksite risk potentials resulting in stronger safety criteria.
  • Higher parameters for construction quality, due to offsite manufacturing interiors allowing for greater controlled influence over precise prefabrication techniques.
  • Greatly reduced onsite disturbances, with offsite modular prefabrication underpinning efforts to meet regulations regarding densely populated areas with minimised dust and noise levels to name a few.
  • Comprehensive risk management, including reduced onsite man hours and effectively minimising HSE risk variables.

A report prepared for the Department of Commerce and the Industry Capability Network in Western Australia in 2011 included results from a survey involving resource developers and fabricators, identifying critical success factors for modular construction projects.

The survey revealed that the essential factors were—based on the combined average of both resource developers and fabricators—cost competitiveness, specific timeframe deliverability, OHS protocols, and ability to meet required technical project specifications.

As to the isolated results of resource developers and fabricators, the survey saw cost competitiveness as a commonly perceived critical success factor; but, intriguingly, meeting technical project specifications was far more highly regarded by resource developers.

Furthermore, capacity to undertake the required work was also highly regarded by both, but neither group placed as much importance upon company size, with fabricators only slightly ahead in this category.

These results entice the possibility that Australian stakeholders in resources and construction are in a position to invest more into modular prefabrication processes, however, several areas need to be addressed, some including:

  • Technical capabilities, like transportation capacity for super modules weighing up to 4,000 tons or more, and compatibility issues with offshore-procured technologies for prefabrication.
  • Labour costs, which are found to be much higher for fabricators in Australia compared to Asian economies.
  • Access to global supply markets, due to geographical distance from major market hubs.

The stages of adopting modular construction will become more defined as these areas are comprehensively acknowledged by key industry influencers, and market drivers are integrated with long term project development objectives.

According to Jiang, “the more companies get to know about it then the more they are accepting of it. It’s a matter of time in my opinion.”

By Jared Haube for the Modular Construction & Prefabrication Summit

The 4th Modular Construction & Prefabrication Summit 2013 will provide unique insight into technologies behind modular prefabrication, as well as explore pioneering methods (national and international) towards achieving efficient project development. Juliet Jiang will conduct a presentation on ‘T30 Project: Pushing the Boundaries of Construction Technology’ at the conference.

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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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