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

Australasian Timber - - FRAME 2017 -

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.

Euro­pean trend

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.mod­u­lar­buildin­gau­toma­

Aus­tralian Fram­ing Au­to­ma­tion http:// www.aus­ Con­tact – Ste­fan Mar­quart 02 4735 1011

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