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The rise of modular construction

How can construction be faster, safer, cheaper and more efficient?

Across our business and our industry, Coates Hire is continually looking for better, smarter and safer ways of working. One trend we’ve been watching closely is the shift towards prefabrication and modular construction.
 
Experiencing considerable growth in recent years, modular construction and prefabrication accounts for three per cent of Australia’s $150bn construction industry. The Modular Building Institute expects this could double within 5 years, while the Melbourne School of Engineering predicts that these techniques will account for 15 per cent market share in the Australian construction industry by 2025.
 
Many major developers are now incorporating prefabrication and modular construction into their projects, driven by demanding construction schedules, tight budgets and the need to achieve a consistently high quality of construction. Here we explore why this technique is gaining popularity, and how it is shaping the construction industry.
 

Reducing costs and improving efficiency

Commercial viability is one of the biggest drivers for prefabrication and modular construction. In a 2016 survey of 800 architects, engineers and contracting professionals, as reported by Architecture and Design, it was found that prefabrication and modular construction jobs had 65% lower construction budgets and up to 77% reductions in construction waste.
 
By moving the manufacture and construction of building elements offsite into highly controlled production line environments, businesses can:
  • Reduce the cost of individually transporting raw materials to and from site.
  • Perform prefabrication simultaneously with foundation works and site preparation, reducing total project time.
  • Achieve shorter build times and require less staff on the project site.
  • Reduce the impact of weather on construction, increasing the speed of delivery and improving project scheduling.
  • Reduce construction waste and boost overall productivity.
 

Sustainable construction

Improving the sustainability credentials of projects is another factor enticing businesses to try this approach. From design through to delivery, prefabrication and modular construction can improve sustainability through:
  • Streamlining materials management
  • Reducing materials waste and transport emissions
  • Utilising efficient production line construction methods.


Changing the safety landscape

In many ways, prefabrication and modular construction can improve safety and reduce overall project risk. One particular industry report found that over one-third of study participants using prefabrication and modular construction methods reported an improvement in site safety.
 
Some of the ways offsite construction can improve safety include:
  • Allowing people to work in highly controlled manufacturing environments, where safety can be more easily managed.
  • Increased assembly at ground level and reducing the time people spend working at height.
  • Minimising the impact of the sun, wind and rain.
 
However as we all know, construction work – even in controlled environments – is never without risk. Prefabricated construction elements still require transportation to and erection on site, presenting increased risk of lifting, and or slipping during installation. It serves as a timely reminder that despite the changing risk and nature of incidents that can occur, safety remains a major consideration across all forms of construction.
 

Breathing life back into manufacturing

Beyond the cost, time, safety and sustainability benefits, prefabrication and modular construction is good for the economy too. Offsite construction is already helping to boost Australia’s lagging manufacturing sector and looks set to bring needed investment back into this sector, supporting much needed jobs and skills growth.

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