An increased focus on sustainability and the use of building information modeling (BIM) in the construction industry has resulted in a growing trend toward prefabrication and modularization in health care facility construction.

The recently-released SmartMarket Report on Prefabrication and Modularization by McGraw-Hill Construction estimated that prefabrication and modularization would be used by 45 per cent of building industry professionals this year for healthcare facility design. This figure is up from 37 per cent in 2011.

The reason for the surge in growth in healthcare projects comes from the demand for more and larger facilities which can remain open while construction takes place. The off-site construction method allows minimal disruption to the day-to-day operation of the facilities and fewer site disturbances.

With the incorporation of prefabrication in the construction of contemporary buildings rapidly increasing, the industry now has a peak representative body, PrefabAUS.

Launched last week in Melbourne, a key focus for PrefabAUS is to represent, showcase and advance Australia’s prefabricated building industry through collaboration, innovation and education.

The evening was attended by supporters, partners and proponents of prefabrication. A series of launch events are planned in the near future with Sydney, Perth and Brisbane event dates being announced shortly.

The Australian Health Design Council (AHDC) took part in the launch and was represented by its partnerships manager, Matt Rumbelow.

“Given the importance placed on prefabrication within modern health facility design, construction and procurement, the AHDC is keen to provide industry representation for PrefabAUS and promotion of this important industry initiative,” said Rumbelow.

Prefab Construction

Prefabrication allows the essential services of healthcare to remain open during construction.

Prefabrication has wide applications in healthcare facility construction and is more beneficial than traditional construction for several reasons. Modular, or prefabricated construction is easily customisable, relocatable, and extendable.

Prefabrication of medical offices for clinical, dental and surgical purposes are all gaining in popularity. Across Australia, prefabricated or modular construction is making its way into emergency room design, diagnostic centres, hospital extensions, research suites, and operating rooms.

“Prefab has been around for decades,” says Australian Institute of Architects CEO David Parken. “But what’s changing is the power of the computer in the programming, so we’re starting to see efficiencies that were really unimagined before.”

It is widely accepted in other areas of design and construction that prefabrication is more resource-efficient in terms of material use and waste as well as labour and monetary expenses.

Prefabricated portions of healthcare facilities are 60 to 90 per cent completed off-site in a controlled environment. The constructed portions are then transported and final assembly takes place on the building site. Whole buildings can be completed in this manner, as can individual rooms or sections.

Further benefits of prefab construction include its reduced environmental impact, decreased material exposure, and less waste being diverted to landfill, meaning it has a reduced impact on the environment.

The healthcare facility sector is highly responsive to strategies that shorten time frames of disruption so it is a perfect match for prefabrication techniques. McGraw-Hill predicts healthcare construction will see a steady increase in use of prefabrication over the next few years.