Offsite manufacturing helps cut costs
Increased costs and reduced availability of on-site labour pushes builders to explore ways of using offsite manufacturing to contain costs
THE FRAME Australia conference has developed in the past few years with far less emphasis on standard ‘frame and truss’ and much more emphasis on offsite construction generally. That’s the view of Martin Smith (Managing Director - Modular Building Automation – UK / NL) who attended Frame, under its new branding of Timber Offsite Construction, both as a speaker and to support local dealer Australian Framing Automation who exhibited at the conference.
“This move to higher value products was evidenced in the participants. While frame and truss manufacturers were still in attendance there was more focus on mid-rise buildings and apartments with the larger commercial builders also in attendance.
“Inevitably my view is coloured by our experiences in Europe and UK, but the same trends are evident in both markets – increasing land values in the cities and suburbs leading to higher density buildings; increased cost and reduced availability of on-site labour, pushing builders to explore ways of using offsite manufacturing to contain these costs and finally more cross fertilisation in terms of different systems.
“This latter point can be illustrated by hybrid buildings incorporating perhaps a concrete slap, steel framing with timber cassette upper floors together with lightweight panel or even structurally insulated panels (SIP) walls,” he said.
These trends are very evident in Europe where developers are looking for an offsite solution and simply want the best materials for the particular function.
Martin said timber had a unique position, both in terms of sustainability and final customer acceptance, and its place as a result of the new trends seems assured.
“This creates an opportunity for existing truss and frame manufacturers to develop new value-added products – perhaps starting with floor cassettes and then moving to closed or even modular solutions. Distances are bigger in the Australia than in Europe, but equally your cities face exactly the same pressures as European ones do.
“Timber construction has always had a high customer acceptance in Australia, much more so than in Europe, where block and brick remains a high percentage of new residential builds even today in most of the major economies.
“There will remain a place for open frame and truss manufacturing – the weather means you can work outside for a greater proportion of the year than in Europe. The high percentage of single storey buildings that are still constructed allows very manual building methods to continue, whereas increasing safety considerations render these difficult as the heights increase.
Scale and repeatability
“One factor that is common to both the Australian and UK market is the pressure for new housing due to increasing populations and the long term demographic trends towards smaller family units.
“The percentage of owner occupation is high in both countries, but has already started to decline as people are priced out of home ownership. The demand for housing is forecast in the UK to be increasingly taken up by the ‘build to rent’ sector. This is an entirely new sector, with long term investors seeing a stable income stream from the ownership of rental properties. These investors -- often pension funds or other large funders -- are looking for scale and repeatability and are looking outside existing housing supply channels for their housing stock. In some cases they are even resorting to setting up their own manufacturing facilities... often for modular solutions.
“While the existing frame and truss manufacturers remain busy with existing orders there is a danger that they will miss this trend and when times slow down they will have been overtaken in terms of innovation by the new entrants,” Martin said.
“Providers of offsite solution manufacturing equipment such as Modular Building Automation (MBA) are in a unique position to advise clients as to market trends and to provide cost-effective solutions for builders , developers and frame and truss plants alike to gear up to meet these new challenges.”
Modular Building Automation https:// www.modularbuildingautomation.eu/
Australian Framing Automation http:// www.ausframe.net.au/ Contact – Stefan Marquart 02 4735 1011