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.