Damien Crough, Chair – PrefabAUS.
Ryan Smith, Director – Integrated Technology & Architecture Center (ITAC), University of Utah, USA.
James Cameron, Executive Director – Australian Construction Industries Forum (ACIF).
Nicole Sullivan, Technical Solutions Manager – Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).
Ken McBryde, Architect Principal – Hassell.
The discussion provided an ideal opportunity for thought leaders from a wide range of disciplines to delineate the current state of the prefab / offsite sector from different perspectives, while also sharing their thoughts on its potential future direction.
Ken McBryde, known in the architectural field as a proponent of sustainability, sounded an optimistic note about the evolution of this area and the implications for prefab.
“As an architect, I was trained in environmental or classic environmental design which proves the precursor to all sustainability now. We had to surreptitiously try and sneak sustainability into our projects.” […] “I’m really pleased to report now that sustainability is something we get asked to do; by its very nature, it’s part of our brief from the beginning. I think prefab is running in a parallel course to that, just a few years behind.”
Continuing the theme of sustainability, Nicole Sullivan confirmed that GBCA was currently starting to talk about the next iteration of Green Star in a couple of years’ time.
I’d love the prefab industry to be part of that discussion, because we need to move from doing less bad to doing more good.”
She also indicated that sustainability would be given new meaning by the prefab / offsite paradigm.
“If you have a factory which is producing your buildings or producing modules for your buildings, then you have the opportunity to have a much deeper understanding of your supply chain and to be able to make some responsible choices about what you will or won’t use in development of those buildings.”
Sullivan said other key topics worth examining included how prefab might support the 140 billion more disadvantaged people in the world and how it might address the impact of climate change through constructing more resilient buildings.
Meanwhile, Ryan Smith provided insights from the North American perspective, favourably comparing the state of Australia’s sector with that of his home market.
“I think it’s a much healthier conversation here and I also think that means opportunities for accelerating the acceptance of this in the traditional construction sector much more rapidly. So we are in North America trying to convince right now, as opposed to together trying to find solutions. I think that’s a very positive thing that I see here that I applaud you for that.”
Conversely, James Cameron made an astute comparison with more developed markets in Europe.
“I know that Sweden has 74% of its construction industry prefabricated, so Australia has a long way to go and I think it’s something that ACIF needs to focus on.”
Cameron also added that prefabrication had yet to engage successfully with the Australian public.
“I’m really pleased to report now that sustainability is something we get asked to do; by its very nature, it’s part of our brief from the beginning. I think prefab is running in a parallel course to that, just a few years behind.”
Ken McBryde – Hassell
“That needs to change. I’ve heard a lot of amazing presentations [at the conference]; it’s really impressed me, but I wonder where is the Tesla* [*electric car giant and industry disruptor] in the prefab industry, which really captures the imagination that makes it a little bit glamorous and sexy?”
A comment from Ken McBryde indicated it was only a matter of time before that scenario would eventuate.
“I’m enormously excited about where we’re sitting now and feel like the industry is absolutely at a tipping point if you Google around, you’ll find some of the biggest names in architecture in the world are designing various sexy prefab houses.” ■
To watch the full panel discussion go to youtube.com and search for Built Offsite.