One of the foremost methods of applying sustainability and efficient building initiatives in the construction industry is prefabricated (prefab, for short) construction. This involves building the components of a structure in a factory and then delivering the assembled structure to the construction site for easy and quick installation. The use of prefab components is also aligned with the principles of Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA). This is a recognised design approach that is also being applied in construction to simplify building design with materials that are easy to manufacture and efficient in assembly whilst using less time at lower cost.
It’s no surprise that the prefab construction sector in Australia has been gaining momentum due to its value as an efficient construction method that’s cost effective, innovative, and sustainable. It is being promoted by the Australian Construction Vision 2020 as one of the eight key ‘visions’ to improve the performance and efficiency of the Australian construction industry.
Innovative solutions for practical applications
The prefabrication process is efficiently used in modular building construction wherein a whole unit can actually be built off-site and then delivered and installed at the building site with the other modular units to form the completed structure. The importance of prefab construction can be seen in the wake of natural disasters such as the recent floods. It is now being implemented as a sustainable strategy in disaster response and relief.
Prefab modular units can be used as temporary shelters which can be dismantled, reassembled, and used again should the need arise. In fact, the NSW Government has recently invested $350 million in temporary modular housing for flood victims who need a decent, makeshift home whilst rebuilding their lives. Prefab modular units can also serve as long-term housing solutions in rural areas, provided that they are in close proximity to vital resources.
Prefab construction is also a viable option in building efficient, sustainable and high-quality educational infrastructure to support better learning environments. Most Australian states have begun investing billions of dollars for a widespread school building program to modernise learning facilities and to accommodate the rising student population. NSW has allocated a budget of around $4.2 billion for an intensive four-year project focussed on building and upgrading 120 schools and creating 32,000 additional student places and 1,500 new classrooms.
NSW education minister Rob Stokes has stated that they are looking into designs that are “fast to build, cost-effective and meet future learning requirements.” Prefab construction provides the solution to their particular needs. “We’re looking for innovative designs that will deliver high-quality classrooms,” he added. The designs should allow flexibility to customise individual schools, halls and libraries and could be delivered in multi-storey, multi-classroom blocks.
Victoria is also leading the way in this massive endeavour in the education sector. The Victorian School Building Authority has recently launched the Permanent Modular School Program with a budget of $2.5 billion to improve school infrastructure. A spokesperson from the Victorian School Building Authority gave this statement: “Our modular facilities require less time for planning and construction, resulting in reduced disruption to students, staff and teaching programs. They are sustainable and innovative designs, with a comparable lifespan to bricks and mortar structures.”
The Benefits of Prefab Construction
The advantages of employing prefab techniques make it a popular choice for construction projects.
It offers future-proof solutions that can meet the evolving construction challenges in achieving sustainability. Here are some of the benefits that you can gain from prefab:
1. Cuts down on construction time
Time is money, especially with construction projects. Employing prefab methods can speed up the construction process and avoid costly delays. Because prefab components are built and assembled off-site in a controlled environment, as much as half the construction time can be saved versus conventional building processes.
2. Reduces the risk of damage
Building components at a construction site can run the risk of damage due to extreme weather conditions. Prefab manufacturing of construction materials is done in climate-controlled conditions to ensure that the material’s lifespan won’t be shortened and the resulting finish will remain at optimum standards. Prefab components are built using durable materials that can withstand long-distance travel to the construction site and remain damage-free when in transit.
3. Ensures quality control and safety compliance
Before construction starts, prefab components can be individually tested for quality standards before they are sent to the construction area. Prefab materials can also be checked in compliance with safety regulations such as testing for fire resistance.
4. Minimises the carbon footprint
Prefab components are usually constructed using environmentally friendly or recycled materials. Because these are assembled off-site, it significantly reduces the output of on-site construction waste and carbon emissions. Since using prefab materials lessens construction time, this also means less disturbance in the surrounding environment of the site and supports energy efficiency measures as well. Prefab parts in a building can also be reused, repurposed and recycled once the structure has reached the end of its lifespan.
5. Leverage on affordability
Using prefab components in construction projects is a cost-effective solution. Less construction time results in reduced labour expenses and manufacturing costs. Prefab structures have standardised measurements and are mass-produced and purchased in bulk which also leads to economies-of-scale savings. Some prefab materials have insulation benefits which can reduce energy costs from heating and cooling.
6. Streamlines the construction process
Time saved from using prefab methods can be used more efficiently in building planning and as a buffer for contingency measures. This also means fewer people – whether managers or work teams – are needed on-site so the construction process becomes less complicated.
7. Fewer on-site accidents
Accidents in construction sites can cause delays with costly consequences. Since prefab materials are manufactured off-site, there will be fewer people working on-site in less time who are exposed to the risks of potential threats in construction work.
8. Easy to add and dismantle
The beauty of prefab buildings with modular units is that extensions can be easily added using the same materials for consistency in quality, unlike in conventional construction where it may be difficult to find the exact shade or grain of stone to match the original stonework. It is also more far more cost-effective versus finding another location or acquiring more land to add extensions to the building. Traditionally constructed buildings also require expensive explosives or specialists to completely remove the structure. Prefab components avoid all of that since they can be disassembled for future use, for repurposing or for recycling.
Safetyline Jalousie’s louvre windows: Supporting prefab in the construction industry
As a member of PrefabAUS – the authority in prefabrication building across Australia — Safetyline Jalousie is committed to supporting and complying with prefab initiatives as a sustainable, cost-efficient, and environmentally friendly construction solution.
Market leaders in producing high-quality prefabricated louvre window systems, we manufacture our louvre window products in a controlled factory environment. They are fully assembled, glazed, and framed, and delivered to construction sites as a complete unit that’s ready to be installed into your building project.
We invite you to view our projects at Estella Public School, NSW and Eagleby State School, QLD to see how our louvre window systems have significantly improved indoor ventilation and contributed to creating modern learning environments that have been constructed in a fraction of the time of a traditional build. Our project at Kittawa Lodge, TAS is also a great example of how our louvre window designs have been incorporated into a modular build at a remote site in Tasmania.