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  • Writer's pictureJan Lienemann

17 Benefits of Prefabrication in Construction

Prefabrication is a construction method that involves the manufacture of building components in a controlled environment, before they are transported to the construction site. This method has gained popularity and acceptance across Australia in recent years as a way to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and improve building quality. Latest industry reports show that the Australian Prefabricated Buildings Market is anticipated to register a CAGR of more than 7.5% over the forecast period.

State governments have started to push prefabrication for some of their projects such as Tasmania's 200 ModHomes program and School Infrastructure NSW's utilisation of methods of modern construction (MMC).

In this post, we will discuss the main benefits of prefabrication, its disadvantages, and the factors that are expected to drive its growth in the Australian construction industry.

Benefits of Prefabrication

The list of benefits is long and being a supplier of prefabricated building solutions ourselves, we could talk about it all day long but let's focus on some of the core advantages.

We explored the topics of labour and material shortage in more detail in our previous blog post "Prefabrication: an answer to the labour shortage?" but there are quite a few more. So what are they?

1. Improved Efficiency (obviously!): Prefabrication allows building components to be manufactured in a controlled environment, away from weather-related delays and other construction site disruptions - think traffic, labour shortage, neighbours etc. This leads to reduced construction time and improved overall project efficiency which then leads to significantly reduced holding cost - especially interesting for developers.

2. Reduced Costs: By manufacturing building components in a factory, prefabrication can reduce costs associated with on-site labour and materials. Additionally, the use of prefabricated components can reduce waste and increase material utilisation, further reducing costs.

3. Improved Quality: Prefabrication allows for precise manufacturing processes and greater control over the quality of building components. This can lead to improved overall building quality and reduced defects. Our wall panels for example are up to 11.7m long with frames made from quality kiln dried timber to ensure the perfect moisture percentage - with a tolerance of 1mm across the panel.

4. Increased Sustainability: Prefabrication can improve sustainability by reducing construction waste, improving energy efficiency, and reducing the carbon footprint of construction activities.

Energy efficiency is a big topic for us. Our standard system achieves a minimum of 7.5 stars in the NatHERS rating system which conveniently eliminates a lot of headaches that builders might face with the upcoming NCC 2022 which comes into force in October 2023.

Our projects usually achieve 7.5 to 7.9 stars - see samples here.

5. Flexibility: Prefabricated components can be easily modified or relocated, making them a versatile option for many different types of construction projects.

6. Safety: Prefabrication takes place in a controlled factory environment, reducing the risks associated with traditional construction sites such as risk of slips, trips and falls – particularly as work at height is reduced. There is also a reduction in overall onsite activity, thus ensuring health and safety always remains a top priority from start to finish.

7. Improved Schedule Predictability: With prefabrication, construction schedules can be more accurately predicted and managed, reducing delays and improving project management. Research reports on prefabrication and modularisation from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) mention that project schedules are reduced by up to a month or more.

8. Better Design Control: Prefabrication allows for greater design control and coordination, ensuring that components fit together as intended and meet project requirements. We call it "Lego for grown-ups!"

9. Enhanced Collaboration: Prefabrication often involves close collaboration between architects, engineers, and manufacturers, leading to more efficient communication and better-coordinated projects.

10. Higher Reusability: Prefabricated components can often be reused in other projects, reducing the need for new materials and leading to more sustainable construction practices.

11. Improved Weather Protection: Prefabricated components can be manufactured indoors, protected from adverse weather conditions, reducing the risk of delays and damage to materials. Once on site, the assembly takes place in a matter of days. Zen Haus' wall, floor and roof system achieves lockup in 3 crane days for a single storey build.

12. Improved Quality Control: Prefabrication processes allow for consistent quality control and testing, reducing the risk of defects and ensuring that components meet the necessary standards.

13. Increased Design Flexibility: Prefabrication allows for greater design flexibility and the use of innovative materials and construction methods, resulting in more creative and functional building designs.

14. Better Construction Planning: Prefabrication enables construction teams to plan and coordinate the delivery of components and systems, reducing the need for on-site storage and improving site safety. For example, a well coordinated team can empty a 40ft container full of panels and brace them on the slab in 4-5 hours.

Quite the list, ey? Let's have a look at some of the environmental benefits when using prefabricated building solutions.

a) Efficient Resource Utilisation: The controlled factory environment of prefabrication allows for more efficient use of resources and materials, reducing waste and improving sustainability.

b) Increased Recycling Potential: Prefabricated components can often be easily disassembled and recycled at the end of their life, reducing the environmental impact of construction and promoting sustainability.

c) Improved Indoor Environmental Quality: Prefabricated components can be manufactured to tight tolerances and with a focus on indoor air quality, improving the overall environmental conditions in the finished building. Tight tolerances are particularly important with the upcoming NCC 2022. Our panelised wall system and floor/roof cassettes include a PE membrane for air tightness as well as a breathable membrane to let moisture out but not in. In combination with taped corners and connecting points, our system can achieve Passive Haus standards.

Are there disadvantages with prefabrication?

Yes, there are. Prefabrication is not the holy grail but even though there are some disadvantages when it comes to modern methods of construction, a lot of them can be avoided.

Zen Haus works closely with architects, certifiers, consultants, builders, developers and end clients to avoid common issues. But before we go into solutions mode, let's look at the disadvantages in more detail first.

1. Initial Investment Costs: The upfront investment costs of prefabrication can be high, especially for small-scale projects.

2. Limited Customisation: Prefabricated components may have limited customisation options, which can be a disadvantage for projects with unique design requirements.

3. Logistics and Transportation: The transportation of prefabricated components to the construction site can be challenging and may require specialised equipment which can adding to project costs.

4. Limited Design Changes: Design changes during the construction process can be difficult to implement with prefabrication, as components are often manufactured in advance and may not be easily modified.

5. Limited Adaptability: Prefabricated components may not be suitable for all types of projects or building sites, limiting their versatility and adaptability.

How to overcome these disadvantages?

Planning, planning, planning!

The upfront work is the most crucial part of prefabrication and can eliminate a lot of the above mentioned issues.

To overcome the initial investment costs of prefabrication, it is important to invest in thorough planning and design to ensure the most cost-effective solution. That's why we work closely with architects, builders, certifiers and consultants.

Another crucial factor is to work with experienced manufacturers who have a proven track record. This can help ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget. This is one of our strong points. Once our final estimate has been provided, prices won't change. This avoids nasty surprises that so many builders currently experience.

To address limited customisation options, designers can build flexibility into the design and consider modular construction methods that allow for easy modification. We always prefer to work with designers from the start which ensures that architects and building designers fully understand our capabilities and any design restrictions. It is important to build in design review processes that allow for changes to be identified and addressed early in the construction process.

Transport is a huge part of what we do. When dealing with logistics and transportation challenges, it is important to select the most appropriate transportation method based on the size and type of components, as well as the construction site conditions.

One of the reasons why Zen Haus Group collaborates with global transportation experts Cargo Partners - a full-range info-logistics provider offering a comprehensive portfolio of air, sea, land transport and warehousing services, with special expertise in information technology and supply chain optimisation with over 160 offices in 40 countries.

To overcome the limited adaptability of prefabrication, it is important to carefully select projects that are well-suited to this construction method and can benefit from its advantages. We can very swiftly identify if projects work for our prefabricated building solutions or not by analysing location, access and design.

If you're working on a project and you consider using prefabrication, simply click below to leave your details and we will be in touch with you to discuss your project.

Growth of Prefabrication in the Australian Construction Industry

As mentioned at the beginning of our post, we now see an increased acceptance for prefabricated buildings and the utilisation of MMC in Australia.

Government initiatives aimed at promoting sustainable and efficient construction practices are expected to drive further demand for prefabricated components in new builds. The increased adoption of prefabrication by leading construction companies and industry players is expected to drive its wider adoption across the sector.

The development of new prefabrication technologies and digital tools is expected to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve the overall quality of prefabricated components. A great Australian example is PT Blink - a technology platform and marketplace that enables the flexible design, offsite manufacture and onsite integration of multi-storey buildings.

Furthermore, the growing demand for sustainable buildings is expected to drive demand for prefabrication, as this method can help reduce waste and improve energy efficiency. Latest data shows that energy efficient homes fetch up to 17% more in their sales price. An especially important factor in the current market.

Lastly, the availability of a skilled workforce with experience in prefabrication is expected to be a key driver of its growth, as more workers gain expertise in this field.

In conclusion, prefabrication is a construction method that offers several benefits, including improved efficiency, reduced costs, and improved building quality. However, it also has some disadvantages, including initial investment costs, limited customisation, and dependence on manufacturers.

Despite these disadvantages, the growth of prefabrication in the Australian construction industry is expected to continue, driven by factors such as government support, industry adoption, improved technology, growing demand for sustainable buildings, and the availability of a skilled workforce.

To overcome the disadvantages of prefabrication, careful consideration of project needs, a thorough understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of this method, and collaboration with experienced manufacturers and suppliers are necessary.

Ultimately, prefabrication can and will play a significant role in improving the efficiency, sustainability, and overall quality of construction projects in Australia.

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