Since launching its automated prefabrication facility 12 months ago, building contractor Strongbuild has grown from strength to strength.
The first of its kind in Australia, the panelisation facility in Bella Vista, north-west Sydney, manufactures extremely precise prefab components that are highly cost-effective, allowing for rapid and safe assembly on site.
Prefabrication now plays a part in roughly 80 per cent of Strongbuild’s projects and, more and more, the company is choosing only to work on projects where they can add value through offsite manufacturing. Strongbuild’s managing director, Adam Strong, will discuss the business model as part of prefabAUS 2017, the annual conference for the prefabricated construction industry.
“Prefabrication gives us control over price, quality and timing, with the entire design and build process taking place in-house,” Strong said.
The CEO of prefabAUS, Warren McGregor, says Strongbuild’s growth demonstrates the importance of prefabrication for the construction industry.
“Companies like Strongbuild are showing us the future of the industry here in Australia. Their commitment to better ways of building and innovation with growing demand for their services,” McGregor says is now reaping rewards.
“Strongbuild, and prefabrication generally, is also helping to meet the challenges of the housing crisis we are seeing in the country by delivering cost efficiencies and time savings that lead to overall lower costs per dwelling. I’m sure Adam’s presentation at the prefabAUS 2017 conference will be of great interest to others working in the field.”
Strongbuild’s new prefabrication factory is the result of four years of research and planning, followed by two years of construction and quality control, But it was an episode of the popular architectural TV series Grand Designs that seeded the idea in Strong’s mind.
“The inspiration came when I was watching Grand Designs and saw a German builder, HUF HAUS, deliver a panelised high-end home into Cornwall in England. Straight away I felt there was a place for this kind of model in Australia and at Strongbuild,” Strong said.
“After that we did a number of research trips to Europe. Coming out of that research phase, panelisation is a manufactured solution that we’ve committed to. Although we're doing bathroom pods, we're not really a modular builder – we produce prefinished panels, whether it is a cross-laminated timber (CLT) structural element, or a standard lightweight timber framing.”
Strong says his company can complete a two-storey townhouse, so that it is “locked up and watertight – and that’s windows, doors, cladding, the whole lot,” in around three days from the slab being down.
“That’s what we saw in that Grand Designs episode – they delivered it to that principle of panelisation, and we really have been working on that vision ever since.”
Strongbuild launched in 2000 with a vision to create a streamlined building system that would take the negative variables out of the design and building process. Beginning by delivering single-residence homes in a classically Australian style, the business soon expanded into the multi-residential space, splitting into two divisions – Home Building and Community Building.
The multi-residential arm, Strongbuild Community Building, has delivered townhouse communities, residential apartments and vertical retirement villages, including Australia’s largest CLT project, The Gardens at Macarthur Gardens in Campbelltown.
Growing demand from developers in the Sydney market has driven Strongbuild’s expansion, with prefabrication being the engine that allows the company to deliver savings in both material costs and construction timelines. For example, with Aveo Norwest – a luxury vertical retirement village –Strongbuild are able to deliver the project three months ahead of a traditional construction timeline for a similar project.
With property prices continually rising in the greater Sydney region, prefabrication is becoming a necessary element for delivering affordable housing.
“Cost efficiency and affordability is a driver for our business expansion in western Sydney,” Strong said.
“There is an issue where, if the market's booming, pricing for concrete in conventional construction is high. So we've just got to look at better ways, more efficient ways, of delivering projects that make sense for western Sydney, not least, to help solve the problems of the housing crisis – CLT fits the bill here. I’m looking forward to sharing these ideas at the prefabAUS 2017 conference.”