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Boost to prefabricated housing opens opportunities for composites

6 July 2015

Composites quality lightweight prefab house by Norman R Wright & Sons Qld

Composites Australia welcomes federal government investment in the development of advanced manufacturing of prefabricated housing.

“It’s pleasing that the initiative recognises composite materials and technologies as a key enabler in the future for prefabricated housing in Australia,” says Composites Australia Executive Manager Kerryn Caulfield.

The funding, awarded under the recently announced Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Industrial Transformation Research Programme, will establish the ARC Training Centre for Advanced Manufacturing of Prefabricated Housing led by the University of Melbourne’s Department of Infrastructure Engineering.

The Centre aims to support a 10% growth of market share for prefabrication construction that will create 20,000 new jobs by 2025, reduce construction time by 90% and costs by up to 50 per cent compared to traditional methods, says Dr Tuan Ngo, Centre leader and Director of APTES Group, at the university.

Custom prefab house in Inverloch, Victoria. Design: Pleysier Perkins, constructed by Prebuilt. Photo: Hilary Bardford

Custom prefab house in Inverloch, Victoria. Design: Pleysier Perkins. Constructed by Prebuilt. Photo: Hilary Bardford

“A program within the Centre will be devoted to Composite Materials and Manufacturing Techniques. A cross-disciplinary approach will be taken which will involve material scientists working with architects, civil and structural engineers to ensure that materials are designed to meet the needs of the end user at a price and production rate required for market success,” says Dr Ngo.

The Centre’s focus will also be on addressing the shortage of affordable and end-user focused residential housing; re-use of componentry; recycling site waste and expanding export opportunities by securing competitive advantage in global value chains.

Compared with Europe, the US and Japan, the Australian housing prefabrication and modularisation industry is in its formative stages but has great potential for growth in revenue, employment and exports.

“Leading figures in the Australian industry have recognised the productivity, efficiency and safety gains that advanced manufacturing techniques can offer. In particular, enabling technologies such as composite lightweight materials and systems, automated off-site manufacturing, mass customisation and complex systems thinking are essential components of prefabricated housing,” says Dr Ngo.

“Innovative design, lightweight and high performance materials, and new manufacturing techniques have the potential to enable high-quality prefabricated housing tailored to customers’ needs that is ecologically sustainable, reusable, smart and affordable.”

“In Australia, demand for low-to mid-rise residential buildings, project homes and public housing are key drivers of demand in prefabricated construction,” says Dr Ngo. “Over the coming decade, Melbourne will require 60,000 public housing units, and Sydney will require a further 80,000. High-quality, lightweight, prefabricated modular systems will contribute to housing stock with excellent amenity for occupants, at substantially lower cost when compared with traditional housing.”

“The use of novel composite materials will be essential in achieving these goals,” says Dr Ngo.

More information

Composite companies interested in involvement in the Centre can contact:

Dr Tuan Ngo, Director of APTES Group, University of Melbourne Email 

Dr Bill Humphries, Composite Materials Research Coordinator, University of Melbourne  Email