Occupying a focal position in the construction supply chain, developers seem well placed to drive offset solutions where suitable, and, as our feature starting on page 15 shows, a number of outliers are doing so, differentiating themselves from the norm by engaging more directly with the market, with contractors and with offsite. The more ‘disruptive’ iteration of this idea has been described as akin to Uber or Airbnb, adopting a platform that aggregates client demand well before projects are even started. At the other end of the spectrum, established developers are also grappling with how to drive uptake of offsite. While it’s encouraging to see that the push for change is underway, all efforts in this arena typically encounter challenges particular to the Australian market: the high cost of research and development, lack of scalability or integration (very few developers also build), a legacy of relying primarily on land sales rather than value-adding through housing ‘product’ and reluctance to gamble on untried approaches.
Our analysis of the developer’s role was triggered partly by the prefabAUS 2018 Conference (see coverage starting p.23), and businesses such as Raw Property Studio, which presented in conjunction with Strongbuild. A key theme was the need for a structural shake-up of supply chain relationships, including early contractor involvement (ECI). Commonly used in the UK and US, ECI enables project leads to gain input from contractors on the design as it is being developed.
Technology has a role to play in enabling change and disruption, and this issue’s news section includes coverage of tech enabled platform BuildFIT, which looks set to shake up the compliance framework as we know it, while another story contains some interesting predictions about block chain technology and offsite. Wishing our readers a relaxing holiday season and a productive 2019!■
Managing Editor Built Offsite
Welcome to the last edition of Built Offsite for 2018. This is the time of the year when we position ourselves to navigate the tricky path into the festive season, complete with project and business demands – the construction industry seemingly increasingly subject to everything having to be completed before the Christmas shutdown, coupled with myriad staff and client events and school holidays.
It is also a good time to reflect on the state of play for offsite construction. Our 2018 prefabAUS conference in September explored ‘The Rise and rise of prefabrication’. While many impressive advances are evident with more players actively pursuing or assessing the benefits of prefabrication, inroads into mainstream construction have been modest at best.
Amid the many factors at play, one crucial element is the developer fraternity. Whatever the product, supply chain and technical capabilities of our offsite construction players, broader inroads must be driven by client side momentum. Developers and their project teams must be informed about the options available, and need to feel confident about how these can effectively be adopted for their projects.
In this edition we hear from some of the developers on how they see offsite construction, starting on page 15). To further this important conversation, we will hold a seminar early in 2019 focussing on developer attitudes and challenges. We’ll canvass solutions where they exist, and flag issues that need to be tackled. The seminar will be during February in Melbourne, with more details to be announced shortly.
And for your diaries, the prefabAUS 2019 Conference will be 9-11 September at the International Convention Centre, Sydney. With many of the conference sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities already taken up, if you are interested, please contact Brooke at prefabAUS.■