26 September 2016
It’s the commercial construction industry disruptor that’s finally having its day. Pre-fabricated and modular building products have been around since gold was first discovered in Australia – the mid 1850s – but it’s only now, with the urgency for more sustainable building practices, that more builders are opting for it to save time, costs and tick the green box.
Prefab components streamline manufacturing processes, but the savings don’t stop there. Pre-fabrication hand delivers to builders a low carbon footprint, slashed energy consumption, utilises the best use of materials, offers increased options for recycling waste and far less environmental nuisances such as noise and dust. Often they’re lighter, so easier to move around and manhandle on site – decreasing crane use and similar equipment. In short, they are key to more sustainable construction processes compared with traditional building methods.
Three Reasons Prefab is More Sustainable
There are three reasons why pre-fabrication is the more sustainable option over conventional building, says Australia’s peak body for the off site construction industry, prefabAUS. It highlights social, environmental and economic advantages.
1. Socially Sustainable
Having building components built in a factory environment “improves working conditions” and changes building culture by offering a safe workplace with improved job security and flexible shift patterns.
2. Environmentally Sustainable – Less Waste
Environmentally, constructing off site means a “more efficient use of materials secured through a qualified supply chain.”
Using pre-fabricated components for your commercial building project means you’re starting construction in a controlled environment that effectively “reduces waste through avoidance upstream rather than diversion downstream” according to the US Modular Building Institute. Quality management throughout the construction process is improved with less on site activity and disturbance. Once on site, you’ll need less skips for extended periods because there’s less waste.
A University of Alberta study also found that pre-fabricating components off site at a factory slashes C02 emissions that would otherwise happen through transporting materials and labour as well as from continuous on site construction works.
Modular buildings can easily be taken apart, and transported elsewhere for reassembly. A relocatable building moved to 10 different sites throughout its life replaces the energy needed and waste that comes with building 10 separate buildings, the Modular Advantage magazine has reported.
3. Economically sustainable
PrefabAUS also cites an economically sustainable reason for using prefab components – you’re using a local labour force to add value to a local supply chain to deliver a higher quality product.
In many instances, pre-fabricated materials can cut construction time by half when you compare them with conventional construction methods.
A university case study into design innovation, which reviewed published academic papers, found pre-fabrication “reduced overall construction time”. Efficient scheduling meant that different production activities can happen at the same time. As well, the researchers’ 2012 study found using pre-fabricated products “increased building quality and craftsmanship.” You need fewer people working on site at any one time – a positive impact on workplace safety. And although skill levels needed to assemble pre-fabricated elements on site aren’t much different to those required for traditional construction, labour costs were lower, the study found. That’s because it’s quicker to erect prefab buildings, with the overall process usually occurring over a period of weeks rather than months.
On a commercial construction scale, opting for modular or pre-fabricated systems means generally it’s more productive, says Industry News and Analysis. Those savings come through mass production, shorter construction times and lower labour costs.
Prefab of Yesteryear
In the past, pre-fabricated buildings were considered basic and uncomfortable such as demountable classrooms or work site offices. There’s so much more to pre-fabricated construction. New technology, including 3D printing, continues to expand applications within the design and construction industry.
Isn’t it time you looked at prefab for your next commercial construction project?
Build Smarter with SBS Group – pre-fabricated light gauge steel framing alternatives designed to improve productivity and increase profitability.