In an industry always looking to improve efficiencies and cut costs, and in a world of finite resources, modular construction makes sense. 

Despite its advantages, however, modular accounts for just three per cent of building in Australia.

So, why should our industry make the most of modular?

1. Accelerated construction time

Modular construction projects enable parallel onsite and offsite work. Factory-based pre-fabrication accelerates the process even further, delivering an average 20 to 30 per cent time savings over traditional construction.

Hickory Group’s Little Hero apartment building in Melbourne, for instance, was completed in half the time of a traditional build. Even more staggering, Vaughan Constructions’ nine-storey One9 apartment tower, also in Melbourne, was delivered in just five days – a mere 120 hours.

2. Cost savings

Precision engineering, large-scale purchasing power and careful quality control ensure fewer materials are used in modular projects - which means far less waste. The shorter build time saves money on overall construction. Weather-related construction issues are eliminated, which reduces labour costs too. Research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has found that modular construction can deliver a six per cent reduction in costs.

3. Less waste

As buildings are made to measure, nothing is wasted due to damage, storage or the vagaries of weather. Melbourne-based company Unitised Building (UB), has estimated that its modular process can cut waste by around 80 per cent.

4. Less pollution

As most materials are delivered to the factory, modular construction requires fewer trucks at the project site, which limits air and noise pollution. Hickory Group estimates that transport efficiencies gained on the Little Hero project amounted to around 60 per cent saved time, minimising greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and congestion.

5. Limited site disruption

A predominantly indoor construction and rapid onsite erection is the perfect solution for schools, hospitals and busy CBD sites where human activity must be managed. A modular approach requires fewer trucks onsite, reduces the possibility of ongoing construction accidents and improves overall safety and security.  It also means less time worrying about how to manoeuvre hard-to-get-to sites.

6. Easy to disassemble

Easy to assemble, modular buildings are also easily disassembled, refurbished and relocated, which reduces the demand for raw materials and minimises the energy expended to create a new building.

It’s time we stopped saying that modular buildings aren’t exciting or aesthetically appealing, or that consumers won’t want them, because many modular buildings have been successfully put to market. Modular construction shouldn’t be viewed as a barrier to creativity but an opportunity to be more inventive. As more modular buildings showcase high end finishes, unique floor plans and attractive façades, expect more companies and consumers to embrace the possibilities of prefabrication.

  • Tony, I am a big proponent of the case for more to be extracted during the construction formation and procurement off-site phase. This story is however much more than one of modular and dare I say Hickory again. There are many innovations occurring in the off-site space in Australia and even more so in New Zealand and around the Asia Pacific Rim. One of the challenges that the current crop of off-site manufacturers have is that self attestation is weakened when performances of time, actual finished quality on site, and total cost are not independently verified and benchmarked.
    The current surge in the use of prefabricated modular is often shielded by Australia's out of control and rising construction costs. The shortage of skilled trades is also an issue. But the current surge in construction demand will abate and off-site manufacture will need to become more competitive to be sustainable economically.
    Hickory have done a great job getting their modular innovations to market. However I think conversations about off-site are at their best when the good, the bad and the ugly are openly addressed. I believe there are many issues that need to be resolved but insufficient space here.

  • A no-brainer! A friend of mine had a "high-end" house (over 2500 ft^2) assembled this way on a country lot. It was of the highest quality and looked fantastic. All the services fitted, electrical, plumbing, etc. I will never build a house, but if I did this is the way I would go. I still remember seeing the boom truck place a complete room on top!

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