If you’ve spent much time tuning into home-building reality shows like Grand Designs, you’ll be aware of the ever-growing trend of prefab construction. Residential and, in fact, commercial home construction techniques have remained largely unchanged for much of the last century, and this revolution in building strategy has caught the attention of the industry as a result. Offering a range of benefits, prefab construction is set to take the residential and commercial construction landscape by storm. Here, we take a closer look at the prefab construction trend and uncover whether or not it’s worthy of the hype.
What is prefabrication?
As the name suggests, prefabrication construction involves constructing components of a build off-site so that once delivered to the construction site they can be installed quickly and easily. The modular prefabrication method, going one step further, involves constructing entire sections of the building off-site. This ‘plug and play’ model of construction assists builders in overcoming common delays caused by weather, human error, missing components or late materials, as well as avoiding on-site accident and injury. As technology advances and we see the likes of 3D printing become integral parts of the construction process, the possibilities for prefabrication continue to grow. From single building components such as window fixtures, internal and external walls, to entirely pre-manufactured rooms complete with plumbing and electrical fittings, prefab buildings are:
- Easier to schedule for construction
- Quicker to install
- Less likely to result in injury or accident (thanks to work being completed in an off-site location under controlled conditions)
- Not as greatly affected by weather conditions
- Cheaper, overall, than traditional construction methods
What does it mean for commercial construction?
Of course, the most appealing feature of prefab construction is its ability to assist in keeping costs lower thanks to shorter and less labour-intensive construction times. The pressures on construction firms to maintain tight budgets and ever-dwindling margins makes prefabrication an attractive alternative to traditional construction methods.
As labour costs and construction delays are the two largest factors contributing to overspend on a construction project, the potential savings and risk mitigation involved with prefabrication are significant. Delivering prefabricated components to a construction site means that little more than a crane operator and several extra hands are needed to assemble the components. In more traditional construction methods, for example, building a masonry wall would involve delivering materials, setting up and maintaining appropriate scaffolding, and labour-intensive construction of the wall itself. Prefabrication means less labour is required on-site to get the job done, which subsequently also lowers safety risks as well as wage costs.
Of course, any technological advancement carries its fair share of risk to jobs within the industry. However, prefabrication offers a unique opportunity for the commercial construction sector. The prefabrication construction method allows for a greater degree of employee specialisation as well as creating new jobs in the prefabrication stages of construction. From an employee point of view, across a commercial construction site, labourers must operate with a broad skillset, whilst prefabrication means that workers can specialise in more specific areas and develop their skills to a greater degree. Prefabrication, in saving costs for both residential and commercial construction, reduces the costs of construction and enables the industry to grow. This, no doubt, will result in new and more specialised construction roles and a far greater degree of efficiency and safety across the sector. There’s no doubt we’ll be seeing more of this revolutionary construction method around Australia in the years to come.