Safer, faster, cleaner, cheaper and greener are adjectives often used in association with prefabricated building systems, and in most instances they have the potential to deliver on all counts. A degree of prefabrication has been in use on Australian building sites for many years. For some manufacturers, panelisation is a natural extension of traditional stick framing, as Peter Ward of Victoria’s Drouin West Timber and Truss explained.
“We’ve been in trusses and frames for 30-odd years, so we’ve had a long history of timber prefab, of wall frames, prefab wall frames, and roof trusses and floor trusses. So, we saw panelisation as a natural extension to take the wall frames and externally clad them, put the windows in, and add value so we can get the project to lockup very quickly.”
Today, Drouin West Timber and Truss’s FutureFit Panelised Building System, comprising wall panels and floor cassettes, is being increasingly accepted by designers, builders and developers, who see the advantages of faster erection and increased quality control.
Projects range from multi-residential and aged care facilities, which benefit from adding the economies of repetition, to single homes.
Typically, their FutureFit system provides open wall panels, that is panels with an outer cladding of the client’s choice, but in which the inner face is left open to allow for the installation of services.
In Europe, closed timber panels in which the services are already installed are common and they are expected to take a larger share of the Australian market as the sector grows.
The key to efficiently using panelised systems, according to Peter, is preparation. “It’s far more efficient to design a panelised systems from the outset, to have all the dimensions suitable for the panels sorted rather than take an existing design and rework it for panels, so ideally we like to get into a project at the ground floor and work with the architects, engineers, builders, developers, the whole team.”
Sydney’s CSL Velocity system, comprising wall panels, floor cassettes and roof trusses, is said to reduce a typical 60 day time to lock up down to only 18 days. The potential for benefits ranging from increased site safety, cost savings, lower site traffic, greater quality control and less waste is obvious.
Steve Harvey of Bowen’s Timber Truss, says that they have proven the advantages of prefabricated floor cassettes with major clients and that they are now looking to expand their offering into a range of panelised components. From the growth and optimism in the timber panelisation sector, they won’t be the last truss and frame company examining their options to add value to traditional stick products.■
An extension to stick framing, panelisation’s uptake is growing across a wide range of projects from single dwellings to aged care facilities.