Prefab, modular and the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan

Prefab, modular and the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan

On 2nd September the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan was released highlighting eight key priorities. The intent of the plan is to implement reforms that will create “meaningful outcomes for all Australians.

What should come as little surprise to those within the construction industry, is the continued reference to leveraging modular and prefabrication methodologies to support the Plan.

Industry productivity and innovation

The third priority listed in the plan is industry productivity and innovation, with a focus on improving planning, portfolios and pipelines. Within this, a key recommendation is

“Develop and implement infrastructure productivity roadmaps supported by adopting modern methods of construction, including design reuse, standardised design elements, earlier supply chain involvement, digitalisation, modularisation, prefabrication, offsite construction, frame agreements and bulk procurement.” – Page 61

The target is for over 80% of projects to incorporate modular construction methods within the next 10 to 15 years.

Within the plan, the key opportunities to embrace industrialisation include design reuse, standardised design elements, supply chain integration, ‘lean’ manufacturing and ‘Six Sigma’ techniques, modularisation, prefabrication, offsite construction, frame agreements, bulk procurement and digitisation. The plan states that by deploying these methodologies, higher quality infrastructure can be delivered for less, increase productivity and reduce waste.

Embracing Digitisation in Infrastructure Projects

The 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan stresses the need to improve the sector’s productivity as it continues to lag behind the growth and productivity of other Australian sectors. By leveraging digital innovation at the core of all infrastructure decision making, productivity gains can be made. In fact, the Plans cite up to 15% productivity gains and more than 5% in cost efficiencies. Recently we published a blog about the impact and benefit of using Building Information Modelling (BIM), which is just one of the digital opportunities that should be leveraged in infrastructure projects.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) and digital engineering are two examples of suitably well-established digital tools and approaches. They have been shown to deliver better project outcomes, increase productivity and improve infrastructure performance. – Page 283

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Taking a portfolio approach will improve infrastructure outcomes, page 263

Sustainability and resilience

Sustainability continues to be an ongoing priority but given the COVID-19 pandemic there is little wonder why resilience is part of the Infrastructure Plan. Again, this is where technology and embracing digitisation is key as highlighted on page 53 with “Enable timely information exchange and build accountability by expanding participants to the Trusted Information Sharing Network”. This is where BIM can play a role within the wider infrastructure community. Additionally, by leveraging modular and prefabricated building methodologies, there is the opportunity to support the additionally goal of meeting Australia’s commitments to net zero and emission targets (ref. page 56).

Why prefabrication and modular construction is the way of the future

With increasing demands across the construction sector, and infrastructure being a large component of this, prefabrication and modular construction is the way of the future. By leveraging these methodologies for construction, projects can be delivered in a cost effective and timely manner, in addition to supporting Australia’s net zero objectives. Reduced waste, transportation and therefore emissions contribute towards the country’s sustainability objectives, whilst the speed and quality ensure productivity and the opportunity for further innovation in the sector.

Time savings from prefabrication of building services

When we look at building services, this is where modular construction schedule can really change. With close to twenty years in the sector, EVO-MEP Director Neil Wypior explained in a recent CIBSE Webinar, “Through the early adoption of prefabrication, DfMA and working through a collaborative BIM model (BIM360 for example), Construction works are continue on site, while concurrent prefabrication work happen in a factory to meet or exceed the delivery program. So once the building is topped out, we can then drop the risers into the shaft and start doing all the fitment. So, when we look at certain aspects of the project, it can be 30 to 50% faster, but in a total process around about 40 to 60% in time-saving, which through project costs and time certainty is invaluable to the construction industry.

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Conclusion

The 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan is complex and detailed, with a total of three documents exceeding a total 600 pages. Despite this, the plan clearly outlines the need to embrace modern methods of construction, digitisation and the use of modular and prefabrication. In doing so, the construction sector can enhance productivity, continue to innovate and deliver on the aggressive construction targets set across the country. Additionally, by increasing adoption of these methodologies, the country can see benefits from a sustainability and resilience perspective, minimising risk and reducing emissions.

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