New technology and innovation will deliver major changes to the $200 billion Australian construction industry, with the potential to deliver real savings and efficiencies.
The construction industry has relied on age-old techniques for a very long time but changes are coming. Now industry experts are talking about the use of drones, the massive development of green building technology and materials and computer modelling and 3-D technology
Coates Hire CEO Michael Byrne is convinced that the longer term future of construction will see solid opportunities for businesses that provide innovative solutions in safety, productivity, cost efficiency and environmental management to the industry.
“Engineering construction (civil infrastructure including roads, rail, bridges) is a broad category and has historically seen large growth from infrastructure connected with the mining and resources industry. With these sectors in decline, engineering construction is likely to be subdued until the next commodities price boom.
“Pleasingly there are a number of government projects, particularly in roads and rail, that will provide opportunities for our business.
“The Australian construction industry is one of the largest and most diverse sectors in the economy and is an important sector for Coates Hire, providing around half of our revenue each year,” he says.
New trends are always emerging in the building and construction industry, especially in the sustainable building sector. As builders grapple with increased pressure to be efficient, amid industrial disputes, unpredictable weather events and increased regulation, one trend is gathering momentum; prefabricated construction.
Master Builders Association of Victoria Sustainable Building Adviser Dr Phillip Alviano says major Australian developers like Australand, Hickory and Lend Lease are already starting to see the wide ranging benefits of prefabrication systems, and word is spreading.
“Prefabricated building manufacture means that most of the process happens in the controlled environment of a factory, so there are a range of increased efficiencies.
“Inside a factory you don’t have to worry about the traditional impediments to efficient building like inclement weather and traffic disruption,” Dr Alviano says.
Damien Crough, the Director and Board Chair of PrefabAUS, the peak body for the prefabrication industry in Australia, believes prefabrication is the delivery method for the 21st century.
“By using advanced technology it allows a precise way of doing things in a factory controlled environment. It’s not just whole buildings, it can include manufacturing wiring looms, mechanical components and façade and roofing elements through to complete bathrooms and kitchens.”
Crough says that the industry is now attracting interest from the automotive sector which has the experience and sees significant opportunities for manufacture of building prefabricated components.
“The growth of prefabrication is already under way with a number of large Australian construction companies investigating possibilities, while big international companies always look for what they call DFMA, design for manufacture and assembly, to see how much they can manufacture off site.”
There is a range of new building materials in the pipeline, including an experimental concrete that patches up cracks by itself. This is being developed at the Delft Technical University in the Netherlands. The concrete contains limestone-producing bacteria, which are activated by corrosive rainwater working its way into the structure. The new material could potentially increase the service life of the concrete — with considerable cost savings as a result.
Building information modelling (BIM) is another key driver for change in the industry. BIM is a 3-D modelling technology and design process that has already begun to change the way buildings are designed, built, operated and decommissioned. While there is no single accepted definition of BIM it is generally described as a database that provides digital information about the design, fabrication, construction, project management, logistics, materials and energy consumption of a building.
It allows for possible problems in the positioning of sprinklers, pipes, ducting or power within the building to be easily identified before a project starts.
An Australian Government-funded report+, and also the Productivity Commission have concluded that accelerating the adoption of BIM in the building sector could improve productivity by between 6 to 9 per cent.
It also found that concerted government support for the use of BIM by architects, engineers, builders, contractors, owners and facility managers involved in a building’s life cycle would increase BIM adoption in 2025 by 6 to 16 per cent and produce an economic benefit equivalent to $5 billion to Australia’s GDP.
+Productivity In The Buildings Network: Assessing The Impacts Of Building Information Models Report to the Built Environment Innovation and Industry Council