AUSTRALIA CHASES PREFAB ADVANTAGE
AUSTRALIA’S PLANNED new Prefab Housing Centre should secure the Australian industry’s competitive advantage in the prefab building global value chain leading to local employment growth and increased exports of finished products, componentry and expertise, according to Warren McGregor, CEO of PrefabAUS .
The Federal Minister for Education and Training, Christopher Pyne, announced that $4m in funding over four years would be made available to establish the ARC Training Centre for Advanced Manufacturing of Prefabricated Housing administered by the University of Melbourne. PrefabAUS is one of the key partners of the Centre which is a highly collaborative venture involving four Universities (The University of Melbourne, The University of Sydney, Curtin University of Technology and Monash University) and nine industry partners.
This program is part of the almost $40 million in new research funding that will forge stronger research and industry connections awarded under the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Industrial Transformation Research Program, which will see nine new research hubs and training centres commence vital research programs in priority research areas.
“The Prefab Housing Centre aims to unlock the potential growth of Australia’s prefab building industry by creating a sustainable ecosystem between industry and Australian Universities that will prepare the next generation of engineers and scientists to apply advanced manufacturing principles to prefab modular buildings,” Warren said.
He said this highly trained workforce driven by the needs of the customer would identify innovations in the use of advanced materials, design for direct manufacturing and assembly and automated manufacturing.
“This customer-focused innovation will secure the Australian industry’s competitive advantage in the prefab building global value chain leading to local employment growth and increased exports of finished products, componentry and expertise.
Dr Tuan Ngo from the University of Melbourne said: “This Centre aims to provide new knowledge, methods and technologies, as well as highly skilled PhD and postdoctoral researchers, to support the research and development needed to propel the prefabricated housing sector well beyond the current 3% share of the construction market.
“The Centre will train the next generation of industry-ready Australian engineers and scientists through creating a sustainable research partnership between university-based researchers and the Australian prefabricated building industry and composite material manufacturers.”
This will enable the development of sustainable, reusable, smart, and affordable building systems and contribute to creating a globally competitive prefabricated housing manufacturing industry in Australia.
The Australian construction industry has faced severe challenges over the past two decades. Spiralling costs of building materials and construction have made housing less affordable. Sustainability, health and well-being, and safety imperatives together with the marketwide expectation for high-quality design have further challenged traditional construction. Advanced manufacturing of prefabricated housing is a viable alternative. Leading figures in the Australian industry have recognised the productivity and efficiency gains that advanced manufacturing techniques can offer. In particular, enabling technologies such as composite lightweight materials and systems, automated off-site manufacturing, mass customisation and complex systems thinking are essential components of prefabricated housing.
Powerful global trends have seen a renaissance in housing prefabrication and modularisation in Europe, the US and Japan.
By comparison the Australian industry is in its formative stages but has great potential for growth in revenue, employment and exports. Innovative design, lightweight and high performance materials, and new manufacturing techniques have the potential to enable high-quality prefabricated housing tailored to customers’ needs that is ecologically sustainable, reusable, smart and affordable.
New thinking is required to chart the successful work flow from design through to supply, manufacturing and delivery – workflows more akin to automotive, ship and aeronautical manufacturing than traditional design and building methodologies.
Damien Crough, Chairman of PrefabAUS said: “The current prefabricated building market in Australia is a modest $4.5bn of the total $150bn construction industry. Projections for the 10-year outlook indicate a potential market share growth to 10% or $15bn if current challenges can be overcome.”
The global market in 2014 was estimated at $96 bn. In Australia, demand for low-to mid-rise residential buildings, project homes and public housing are key drivers of demand in prefabricated construction.
Warren McGregor, CEO of PrefabAUS.