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2020 National Architecture Awards | Shortlisted DCWC Projects

DCWC provided services for three projects shortlisted for the AIA 2020 National Architecture Awards. Nominated across a variety of categories, the projects include: Monash Universi.....

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SINSW moves towards modular construction

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Modular, prefab, off-site construction, and many other names are used to describe factory-built buildings, and DfMA (Design for Manufacture and Assembly) is one increasingly popular collective, which seeks to focus on the technology-led benefits of the approach.

This SINSW (School Infrastructure NSW) initiative brings the whole question of prefabricated construction back into the spotlight once again. Some of the acknowledged benefits of building in a controlled factory environment are quality, safety, sustainability and perhaps most compellingly from a school operations perspective, time on site.

Cost is often the most contentious aspect of prefab, as the full promise of factory efficiencies is rarely delivered. Factories need high volume and consistent throughput to run efficiently.
Ad hoc sales, and inconsistent production negate much of the cost savings that the removal of weather and the introduction of process methodologies might otherwise offer. By the time trucking and cranage are factored in, modular is usually cost-comparable at best, and often attracts a premium over an in situ build methodology.

What is very different about this current school infrastructure procurement is that it addresses modular from the demand side. With its multi-billion dollar, multi-year roll out program, SINSW has a unique opportunity to create the market conditions that might lead to the successful establishment of a mature, robust and resilient local prefab industry.

It’s probably fair to say that most of the prefab work in Australia is effectively off-site construction, where the work is taken into a controlled environment (a large factory or warehouse). There, traditional trades using traditional materials and methods, construct the building with the benefit of the flat factory floor: good access and materials handling, and no weather to contend with.

However, because the trades, materials and methods are all traditional construction based, there is a finite limit to the efficiencies that can be realised. This limit is very quickly reached, meaning that regardless of increased volumes, no real efficiencies can be achieved beyond the initial increase.

Nominating 14 schools (out of 40 in the next round of procurement) as a DfMA path, implies a technology-led approach, and SINSW has set the scene for all providers – builders, manufacturers and consultants – to lift their game if they wish to be part of the challenge laid out. Digital maturity: systems and operational maturity, and a systemised approach to product development will factor heavily with those companies looking to be part of the eventual success of the DfMA school program.

Industry Expert in Modular Construction

I am delighted to have recently joined Donald Cant Watts Coke as Director, Project Management in the Sydney office. I have a wealth of hands on experience in the modular industry, as CEO of advanced modular manufacturer, Tektum; consultant to multiple emerging prefab and supply chain manufacturers, former Director of industry peak body PrefabAUS, guest lecturer at the University of Sydney’s summer intensive in Modular Architecture for Masters and PhD candidates, and founding Industry Partner of the CAMP.H CRC (Centre for the Advanced Manufacture of Prefabricated Housing).

DCWC will publish a detailed white paper on modular construction later this month, capturing much of the learnings from my time in the industry, as well as the broader experience of the DCWC business with prefabrication in health, aged care, residential, school and data centre projects.

Should you wish to receive an early copy of the paper, click here to find out more.

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