Amy Marks is President and Owner of XSite Modular in the US, a consulting firm using a modern method of construction that focuses on enabling and optimising the use of off-site and prefabrication in large, complex, technology-embedded buildings.
In the lead up to her keynote address at next week’s
national lecture series with prefabAUS, Ms Marks speaks to us about the growth of prefabrication and modular building overseas and how lessons from abroad can be applied to Australia’s emerging prefab sector.
How can Australia’s construction industry benefit from prefab buildings?
The result of Australia’s construction industry utilising modular buildings, prefabricated components and subassemblies will be construction projects that are safer, higher-quality produced with cost and schedule certainty and potential overall savings.
The desire to enable and optimise these elements will have a positive effect on changing the process of how construction projects are pursued, contracted, procured and executed to be more collaborative and force teams to align with each other and the owner’s needs.
Can prefab buildings also be architecturally significant?
It’s a myth that buildings using off-site methodology have to be boxy or repetitive with identical cellularity. Design choices do have an impact on cost for traditional construction and off-site however, many off-site elements that enable productivity and building efficiency are indifferent to the aesthetics of the building.
How is the US in particular embracing offsite construction?
There are some examples of large, high profile projects using full volumetric modules that seem to get the most press. Modular construction in the US has been around for 100 years. However, there is larger growth in project teams incorporating various elements across the entire off-site continuum including intelligent materials, components and prefabricated subassemblies and optimising Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) principles. Many large construction companies, developers and large clients have embraced the use of these Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) practices as it aligns with value and reduces waste on many levels.
Are there any misconceptions about prefab buildings you would like to dispel?
Yes, it’s the best and worst marketing for prefabrication that when done well, it becomes invisible to the end result. There is a lot of prefabrication that goes unnoticed because it is not enabled by the process but is done as a result of a few team members purely as means and methods due to productivity requirements.
Also, often project teams look to prefabrication only when there is simple, repeatable cellular design. While prefabrication under these circumstances is a solution, it’s also a solution for the most complex, expensive and unique buildings. Data centres, hospitals, high-rise, military installations and industrial builds that use prefabrication are able to achieve productivity results that are difficult and sometimes impossible in the field.
What building types in particular would you recommend use a prefab model?
I am yet to find a building type that would not benefit from the use of some element from the off-site continuum. What’s more important is that companies understand the process of how to evaluate when and which elements are most appropriate. Just because you can prefabricate something, doesn’t mean you should. We train clients to use Target Value Design and the DfMA principles to optimise and then analyse elements.
Tickets are now on sale for Ms Marks’ lectures at the upcoming national lecture series, exploring the use of prefab in Australia:
Ms Marks will be joined by a panel of industry figures at this event to discuss how Australian businesses can profit from prefab, while identifying the critical drivers for change. Tickets are limited.