DAVID HALLER IS NATIONAL OPERATIONS MANAGER OF THE MASTERPLANNED COMMUNITIES CONSTRUCTION DIVISION AT MIRVAC GROUP. OVER HIS 18 YEARS AT THE GROUP, ONE OF HIS PRINCIPLE PREOCCUPATIONS HAS BEEN HOW TO IMPROVE THE EFFICIENCY OF THE CONSTRUCTION BUSINESS THROUGH WELL PLANNED INNOVATION. HERE HE SHARES INSIGHTS FROM HIS EXPERIENCE TO DATE AND ADVANCES THE IMPORTANCE OF PARTNERSHIPS TO DRIVE LOCAL INDUSTRY FORWARD.
Throughout the evolution of prefab and offsite solutions in the Australian market, Mirvac has been committed to playing a significant role. The group has had a history of participation in the sector, and over the last five or six years in particular in terms of innovating wherever possible. As a group we’re continually looking to unlock opportunities for new approaches to building, whether that might be in my specialised area, the housing sector, or the apartment, office or commercial arenas.
Partnerships have often been at the core of this focus, which says a lot about both the opportunities and the limits of the early Australian offsite sector. We’ve worked with companies like CSR Velocity and Drouin West Timber & Truss on projects that wouldn’t have been possible without collaboration.
CSR Velocity emerged from a partnership we forged with construction material manufacturer, CSR, which led to a prefabricated solution in the form of a panellised solution that combined the external cladding of a wall panel with a timber frame, windows, doors, services, insulation and wall lining. And more recently, the Tullamore housing estate in Doncaster (Melbourne) was the fruit of collaboration between Mirvac and Drouin West Timber & Truss. Demonstrating the potential of panelised production for residential purposes, the outcome of the project was a suite of residences combining both traditional timber framing and panelised floors and walls. Panelisation emerged at that point as a promising solution that looked set to grow in the Australian market.
In the course of Mirvac’s engagement with offsite, we’ve taken away a number of learnings. There are some very real factors that allow offsite to happen effectively. BIM and DFMA principles are critical. The smart application of BIM enables collaboration the consideration of offsite solutions as early as possible in the project planning process. It has the potential to align effectively with design for manufacture and assembly (DFMA), enabling a solution to be achieved to a higher quality at lower cost and in less time.
“BIM and DFMA principles are critical.David Haller, National Operations Manager – Masterplanned Communities, Mirvac Group.
The smart application of BIM enables collaboration the consideration of offsite solutions as early as possible in the project planning process. It has the potential to align effectively with design for manufacture and assembly (DFMA), enabling a solution to be achieved to a higher quality at lower cost and in less time.”
Collaboration and the use of technology offer critical gains in offsite, but the Australian market also faces challenges.
One of these is supply chain; currently manufacturers offer limited options to the market in terms of offsite elements, limiting builders’ capacity to move into offsite construction. The other issue is that we lack the volumes of other comparable markets such as the US. In the US, names such as Katerra are making headlines; vertically integrated and backed by serious investment. Katerra’s approach, delivering buildings using a catalog kit of parts approach and a highly digitised, automated approach, is ground-breaking and inspired. The difference in scale between the US and Australian markets is notable however; and without vertically integrated and financially backed structures such as Katerra, few in the Australian market have the capital expenditure clout or can afford to take risk to frontload investment into offsite construction.
Going forward, meaningful partnerships can soften those pain points in the Australian market. And stereotypical vendor relationships might need to change. Arguably industry as a whole needs to look at the issue of intellectual property. We currently operate in a highly sensitive commercial world, where the protection of IP is critical. It’s worth asking whether a new approach to IP might be beneficial; one in which parties in a given partnership develop and co-own IP together.
“Going forward, meaningful partnerships can soften those pain points in the Australian market. And stereotypical vendor relationships might need to change. Arguably industry as a whole needs to look at the issue of intellectual property. We currently operate in a highly sensitive commercial world, where the protection of IP is critical. It’s worth asking whether a new approach to IP might be beneficial; one in which parties in a given partnership develop and co-own IP together.”David Haller, National Operations Manager – Masterplanned Communities, Mirvac Group.
I started in the construction industry many years ago, bricklaying with my grandfather, but the industry has radically changed since that time. Our trade base in Australia is diminishing. We can’t do things the same way that we have been doing them for so many years.
As one of the largest developer/builders in Australia, Mirvac has an opportunity to take a leadership role in the arenas of responsibility, accountability, pre-planning, due diligence, engagement and innovation in the prefab offsite space, and we’re committed to leveraging BIM and DFMA principles for offsite construction. For projects where we need to be ultra-bespoke, it may be the case that these aren’t applicable to offsite construction. But the point is that we need to be flexible enough to switch on and switch off opportunities as and when they arise.
We have a strong legacy business and the addition of technology that leverages BIM to create virtual environments has a big role to play in reinstating confidence in our construction industry. The only way to be better is to build better. One of our missions at Mirvac is to unlock the opportunity to build homes that look better and perform better. Going forward, one way to achieve this is to partner effectively with businesses that offer synergies with ours.
Through Mirvac’s experience trialling opportunities to unlock offsite manufacturing, we have found that effective partnership and collaboration between the manufacturer and the builder is key to a successful offsite manufacturing delivery model. Most recently we have partnered with TimberTruss in Victoria, one of the largest frame and truss manufacturers in Australia. TimberTruss brings extensive experience in manufacturing of timber wall frames and flooring systems, which complements Mirvac’s long standing experience in development and construction. We are now able to utilise prefab components on the next stage of our Tullamore development in Victoria, with greater future opportunities in the pipeline.■