Prefabrication has always been a part of this industry. The ease and economical value it has added to traditional commercial projects has always been apparent, but in days prior to the precast concrete dream urban dream homes, the industry has been a little sluggish in bringing prefab into the residential sector.
This is due to many reasons, most of which relate to the stereotype of the prefab home. Throughout recent times, these homes have been associated with poor design and low income, with many government and council commissioned homes, which use prefabricated materials due to the aforementioned pros, creating the face of this building process.
That is, until now.
The modern prefabbed residential building is taking commercial elements and translating them into residential modes. The key element behind this trending practice is to be able to differentiate between undertaking outdated processes and the modernisation of an incredibly practical industry go-to.
Just like even other building facet, prefabrication in regards to the home comes in many different forms. The images that jump to everyone’s minds are the manufactured or modular home. These are either flat packed or jigsaw like homes, that are factory built and come to the work site ready cut and manufactured to size. These homes usually rely on steel and wooden framework with plaster paneling.
These homes usually sit between 5–10% cheaper than traditional building, but do however hold a certain style and associated stereotype.
In comparison, and credited for the reemergence of the practice, are the incredibly modern and stylised precast concrete homes. Beginning as a traditionally commercial practice, concrete prefabrication is the process wherein cement panels are manufactured and poured in factories, cutting down on waste and environmental factors that are apparent on an open building site (i.e. rain delays, accidental chipping etc.).
Not only is this incredibly practical, especially in inner city and urban projects, new concrete polishing and styling technologies remove the ugly grey stigma, transforming cement from a hardy underlay material to a genuine design element.
In terms of pros and cons, the positive aspects far outweigh the negatives. For example, in addition to style, prefabrication in every form is an incredibly effective green building process. In creating a home built to exact fit, waste can be substantially decreased, if not diminished, and the off site manufacturing process greatly depletes excess energy exertion.
The actual pouring process of the cement prefab can be incredibly beneficial in producing a building that uses little energy. New pouring technologies include using hemp in the precast process. By layering hemp hurds into the wet cement, when it finally hardens, the precast building materials are organically insulated and stronger in addition to being both mould and insect proof.
This is a process that has been widely used in Germany and the UK since the 90’s and is set to completely revolutionise the Australian industry.
Prefab is however not without its challenges. In terms of modular and some other prefab means, the lead contractor will have to be paid upfront, with initial monetary offsets sometimes higher than traditional buildings. There is also sometimes the hassle of entire pieces needing to be returned to manufacturers due to in-transit damages, which, due to the average size of most of these pieces (especially the precast cement walls), can potentially push back completion dates substantially.
These issues are however limited, and the success of prefab rests almost entirely on style, and the practice’s long history of being rather unchanging when it comes to aesthetics.
Prefabricated homes and materials are cheaper, substantially faster and highly sustainable in nature. Now that design flair and trending have joined the vast array of pros associated with the prefabricated building process, we will surely see the reemergence of this practical innovative industry gem.