This issue, our main feature (page 15) looks at construction companies’ engagement with offsite. There has been increasing activity on the part of builders in this space in recent years, with large scale projects lending themselves particularly well to offsite solutions, while schemes in remote or hard-to-access locations also benefit from OSC. Builders we spoke to identified common and ever more familiar themes in offsite’s successful deployment; the importance of designing it into a scheme from inception and fostering successful collaboration between all parties involved.
We also present a compressed write-up of the fifth edition of the Built Offsite Forum series sponsored by Sensum, (coverage of which starts on page 29), in which the opportunities and challenges presented by precast concrete are unpacked. Precast’s flexibility, durability and strength make it a solid contender in unusual builds that require innovation, particularly when coupled with experience from seasoned precasters and client teams. It still faces challenges however, including educating end users, engaging early enough in the process for precast to be effective and developing better key structural elements such as connections; nevertheless a raft of successful recent projects mean its efficiencies are proven. Also worthy of note was that the forum stressed the importance of educating the industry on correct design and installation, a point with particular resonance in light of findings relating to the Opal Tower crisis (see page 8).
As this first edition for 2019 goes to press, the news of Strongbuild’s entry into administration in late 2018 and forecasts of softening construction sector activity are reminders of the potential challenges ahead. Built Offsite wishes all OSC operators well, and looks forward to reporting on industry issues and good news stories as the year unfolds.■
Managing Editor Built Offsite
As we embark on a new year, it is noteworthy that the residential property market outlook has changed appreciably since mid-2018. A pronounced slowdown in new dwelling commitments is widely evident. This presents an additional challenge for the offsite construction industry, which increasingly embodies manufacturing processes with higher capital expenditure and less variable overheads than the traditional contractor model’s ability to scale up or down via sub-contractors. This difference and the resultant reliance on a steady flow of projects became starkly apparent in November 2018 when Strongbuild, an established general contractor and leading adopter of offsite technologies, went into administration after a $45m residential development project was cancelled at short notice.
Further from home, but no less relevant to our industry, I’m pleased to confirm that, following the successful prefabAUS study tours to Sweden in 2017 and US/Canada last year, our 2019 study tour will be to the United Kingdom. With the UK’s construction capacity already overstretched, Brexit – whether of a deal or no-deal variety – will only exacerbate the urgency of adopting offsite construction.
We also have an exciting update to our own annual forum, with Kasper Guldager Jensen confirmed as International Keynote Speaker for the prefabAUS 2019 Conference ‘Offsite – Constructing the Future’. Kasper is Senior Partner at Danish architecture practice 3XN and the Director of 3XN’s innovation company, GXN. Kasper advocates Circular Construction – re-imagining the conventional linear lifecycle thinking into a circular ecosystem; designing buildings and selecting materials with a view to their disassembly and recycling at the end of their economic life. The Fish Market and Quay Quarter Tower are two Sydney projects benefiting from Kasper’s involvement. (For more about Kasper see page 7.)
Finally, a reminder about our Developer Seminar in February – details are being announced via eDM and
on our website.■