A panel-based structural building system developed in South Australia promises to transform the building industry by dramatically reducing the time and cost required to produce a finished home.
The innovative approach to home construction, developed by NU-TEK Building Systems, involves the use of structural, load-bearing wall panels whose edges are embedded with interlocking steel beams. The steel beams enable the panels to slot together firmly like jigsaw pieces to form the structural framework of a building, dispensing with the need for timber frames or brick veneer walls.
The use of these interlocking panels as chief structural components for the building frame greatly increases the ease and convenience of the construction process, while also reducing material wastage and construction time.
The building components are all pre-fabricated by the company using an automated robotic manufacturing system at its Monarto production plant before being transported to the planned home location by truck. This means that little building waste is produced or left at the construction site itself.
According to the developers of the system, the system could reduce the time needed to build a quality family home from 26 weeks, which is the average at present, to just six weeks.
In addition to reduced building time and cost, another core advantage is the endless flexibility the panels provide. The panels can be manufactured to any length, while construction materials of any kind can be attached to either side, including cement board, timber, colour bond and stainless steel, in order match the precise needs of both the interior and exterior of the building.
The panels themselves are made using a magnesium oxide composite and fitted with 100 millimetres of PIR foam, conferring them with significant resistance to fire, termites and corrosion, as well as providing great insulation against noise and temperature.
NU-TEK claims these properties make homes built using the panels 30 per cent cheaper to heat and cool, enabling its demonstration home to grab a 7.6 Green Star rating.
Other advantages include the use of pre-assembled "looms" for the installation of electrical wiring as the building walls are assembled, as well as the absence of trusses in the roofing system, permitting the installation of mezzanine floors.
Greg Toop, NU-TEK's marketing director, believes the new approach to building developed by the company will have nothing short of a transformative impact on the construction industry.
"It offers a new future for building in Australia," he said. "It's a reality, this is the future."
The company has already received strong expressions of interest from a broad range of interests, and plans to export the products to China and the Middle East.