From an engineering and design perspective, one hidden gem offered by modular construction lies in its inherent economies of scale.
In a traditional construction sphere where proprietary items have assisted and shaped much of our industry, these can also prove a limiting factor in terms of ingenuity and innovation.
However in the case of modular and prefabrication, components can often be optimised and customised for a specific purpose due entirely to the economies of scale offered by manufacturing products in volume.
It is this “out of the box” thinking that can create a successful, innovative product.
There are numerous other additional benefits offered by modular construction.
Firstly, I believe that the use of modular or off-site construction is set to increase significantly in the field of disaster relief. As its ability to assist in providing immediate relief to communities to enable them to continue to function following disasters is appreciated, swift solutions will be sought out.
Meanwhile, future uptake will also be driven by increasing rates of geographic mobility in our society. The use of modular structures is an obvious choice for addressing the need for temporary infrastructure within increasingly transient communities.
Worth noting is that offshore construction continues to be an attractive option for some projects. Surprisingly, these projects are usually not driven offshore by cost, but rather issues such as access and delivery programmes.
In terms of design, projects that are constructed offshore usually have shipping forces governing the structural design. As such, it is critical that engineers are fluent in the design for such forces. Going forward, design will be just as much about transportation as it is about construction in the offsite arena. ■
Karlie Collis – College of Structural Engineers (Chair), Engineers Australia.