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Pre-fab and modular construction

HIA’s project as part of the Pre-Fab Innovation Hub will develop a report that identifies and analyses the regulatory barriers for off-site prefabricated (pre-fab) and modular construction in residential building.

Australia’s building codes and standards, along with the regulatory systems that apply to zoning land and approving the construction of buildings, are written based on traditionally (conventionally) constructed buildings, products, practices and systems.

As a result, they introduce challenges with regulatory acceptance and approvals with respect to off-site construction methods, including prefabricated (pre-fab) and modular construction.

HIA Project

This project will develop a report that identifies and analyses the regulatory barriers for off-site construction in housing.

The report will investigate the identified barriers in detail and identify recommendations and/or proposals to overcome these barriers and enable more tailored planning and building regimes that appropriately recognises off-site construction systems.

Recommendations may include:

  • Changes to the National Construction Code (NCC)
  • Australian Standards and State planning
  • Building regulatory frameworks

Consultation

Phase 1 - The briefing paper

This briefing paper is part of the first phase of the project providing background information and identifying key issues that have been identified by the project team.

The briefing was recently available for stakeholders to review and provide comments. The briefing paper is also being supported by targeted consultation which involves interviewing and/or surveying the interested parties to further identify and examine regulatory barriers for off-site construction.

The consultation period is now closed. Interested parties can still provide feedback to the paper by emailing the team at hia_technical@hia.com.au.

Swinburne University of Technology (SUT) is undertaking the research and development work on this project on behalf of HIA.

Phase 2 - Final report

This project focused on the regulatory barriers that prevent greater take-up of prefabricated (prefab) and modular construction. It sought to identify those barriers in the Australian context and made recommendations to overcome them.

The investigation included review of overseas practice, including countries where prefabricated and modular construction has gained greater momentum such as Japan and Sweden and countries where this form of construction is developing, including Canada, Singapore, United Kingdom, United States of America and New Zealand. 

Consultation with various stakeholders were undertaken in the form of online surveys and written submissions, one-on-one/group interviews and meetings to gain a better understanding of the Australian practice and the challenges that are faced by the industry.  

The general finding was that regulatory ambiguities for prefab and modular construction cause uncertainties for all involved parties that in turn prevent greater take-up of this form of construction.

The quality of the off-site construction products needs to be assured since on-site inspection can be challenging or unable to be fully verified in-situ for complex prefab and modular units. Certification of the factory outputs can be a means to increase the confidence of all practitioners.

But even before a project can start, there are barriers in the design rules, approvals processes and financing arrangements, particularly for housing, that can make the use of prefabrication more difficult, if not impossible. 

These barriers are clearly impeding the productivity benefits that industry and governments understand and expect to flow from the prefabricated building sector. 

This project finds that there are several initiatives governments can take to assist the industry and these are listed in the recommendations. 

Some of the technical recommendations can be addressed via a new section in the National Construction Code (NCC), or a separate protocol or standards published that could be recognised by the NCC, to clarify many ambiguities in the technical construction requirements, when compared to on-site construction methods. 

The recommendations outline the regulatory steps that could be taken to address these barriers and support the prefabricated building and construction sector meeting the expectations of the industry, governments and consumers.

Why are we doing this

These regulatory barriers can be time consuming and costly and results in inconsistent outcomes for industry and consumers, with the potential for non-approval.

 

This can also result in manufacturers and suppliers being hesitant to bring new products and systems to market given the inconsistency and uncertainty.
Graham Wolfe

 

Given the likelihood of a steady increase in fast-tracked building construction, a vast number of construction projects including housing, will move to off-site and modular or systems-based construction methods over the next 5, 10 and 20 years.

It is therefore critical that there is a clear understanding of the regulatory barriers that exist today and that potential solutions are identified now.

Pre-fab Hub

HIA’s project forms part of series of projects as part of the Pre-fab Innovation Hub.

The Pre-fab Innovation Hub was announced by Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology on 16 June 2019 to support Australia’s manufacturing and building and construction industry.

As part of the funding agreement with the Commonwealth, Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) first undertook a feasibility study for a manufactured building hub for the prefabricated building industry. The Hub allows the development and implementation of the following outcomes:

  • support links between the construction and manufacturing sectors to enable businesses to benefit from advanced manufacturing processes
  • support new technologies and innovations enabling the transformation of the industry to provide smarter, more affordable and more sustainable construction solutions for Australians
  • grow the manufactured buildings eco-system to improve business capability to incorporate advanced technologies and processes within industry

The Pre-fab Hub is supported by a Steering Committee comprised of broad range of experts with representatives from industry, research organisations, including HIA and Pre-fab Australia.

 

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