PHILIP ALVIANO, SUSTAINABLE BUILDING ADVISOR AT THE MASTER BUILDERS ASSOCIATION OF VICTORIA (MBAV), OUTLINES OFFSITE CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES THROUGH THE LENS OF THE LATEST TRENDS IN ENERGY EFFICIENCY, SUSTAINABILITY AND ETHICAL CONSTRUCTION PRACTICES.
Emerging requirements for sustainable, ethical and quality assured construction – in particular in light of updates to the National Construction Code – are becoming more closely aligned to practices that are a common part of offsite / prefab / modular construction schemes. Increases in energy efficiency, post construction testing, condensation management, the circular economy and ethical purchasing requirements, will require greater quality assurance and materials tracking.
In thinking about how these updates and a revised framework might affect builders and other offsite players, a good place to start lies in the updates to the National Construction Code (NCC) 2019 for both commercial and residential construction.
In residential construction, these changes relate to increased energy efficiency, an increased focus on air tightness and updates to the condensation requirements. Deemed to Satisfy (DTS) provisions that relate to changes in air tightness will require additional practices to occur during particular points of the construction process. A lack of attention to these details could compromise the final result. In the commercial area, updates to NCC 2019 will see the integration of NABERS and Greenstar requirements, which will produce a more streamlined process. There is now also a blower door test for building sealing verification. Builders will need to be across the requirements for thermal break calculations for facades and roof lights. And new requirements are also needed for windows and floors, with minimum total r-values meaning correct installation is critical. In the area of air tightness, sealing around lights, doors, windows and frames will also be required. Again this is about attention to detail and quality assurance.
Looking ahead, we expect to see the NCC 2022 focus on residential builds with few significant changes to requirements for commercial builds as these are already quite stringent. There is currently discussion around the need to increase the NatHERS rating from 6 to 7 Stars and also introduce a maximum energy use budget for space heating, hot water, lights, pool and spa pumps.
Trends in construction practices involving energy efficiency, an increased focus on air tightness and updates to the condensation requirements are increasing opportunities for offsite specialists. Many of these changes introduce new risks to the building of compliant buildings that will require an attention to detail and the correct installation of the correct materials, in other words quality assurance.
An increase in the construction of high performance buildings brings with it a new set of risks for onsite construction. Those contracted to deliver new builds requiring a Greenstar as built rating or Passive House accreditation will require good quality assurance practices.
Recent negative headlines relating to poor quality and non-compliant cladding have highlighted the need for responsible sourcing of materials. It remains to be seen what the longer term effects, both positive and negative, on the supply chain will be as the global Coronavirus pandemic plays out. This is a critical lesson in having a balanced supply chain that is not reliant on single sources. Just in time principles that improve the efficiency of a manufacturing environment can destroy the competitive advantage on the fast delivery times of offsite construction.
Offsite construction, which entails the use ofseparate components with a traceable supply chain and source, offers unique advantages in mitigating quality issues (product substitution), a benefit for circularity through the use of demountable, reusable or recyclable elements and a salve to the ethical issues around present day slavery, a scourge that continues to permeate our “modern” industry.
“Offsite construction, which entails the use ofseparate components with a traceable supply chain and source, offers unique advantages in mitigating quality issues (product substitution), a benefit for circularity through the use of demountable, reusable or recyclable elements and a salve to the ethical issues around present day slavery, a scourge that continues to permeate our “modern” industry.” Philip Alviano, Sustainable Building Advisor at the Master Builders Association of Victoria (MBAV)