Left to right: Jan Gyrn, Modscape; David Michel, Bedrock; Gianfranco Lucchett, Wood & Grieve

The prefabAUS Conference 2016 kicked off on Tuesday for a two-day event at the Seymour Centre in Sydney, following site visits on Monday. According to organiser Warren McGregor there were about 220 delegates, up on 170 last year.

But according to one delegate such is the strength of interest and momentum numbers could soon be many more.

George Argyrou, Hickory

David Michel of Bedrock, a company only five months old and established to capture the updraft in this industry, told The Fifth Estate during the lunch break that this was just the beginning of a strong growth story.

“I think what we’ve seen in Australia is that the tipping point was last year; it shows you the reach,” he said. “What I think you’re seeing now is the upcycling. And we’ll see some reasonably consistent rapid growth. That’s why there’s such a buzz here. This conference in five years will probably have 1000 people. It’s an emerging industry.”

He thinks that the industry could easily grow from its current three per cent of the market to 20 per cent.

Another delegate Jan Gyrn of Modscape agrees growth could indeed be rapid. As a foundation member of prefabAUS whose company has been around for 10 years, doing a 50:50 mix of residential and commercial prefab, Gyrn is something of a veteran of the industry.

Left to right: Andreea Spoiala and Eileen Newbury from Forest and Wood Products Australia

He says you only need to look at the take-up rates in Europe, Asia and North America for an indication: in the UK, for instance, 45 per cent of health industry development is prefabricated, in Sweden 80 per cent of the residential market is prefab. He thinks there could be quite rapid take up to 10 per cent of the market.

Gianfranco Lucchetti of Wood & Grieve, whose company started with prefab accommodation for the mining industry during the mining boom, is another fan. The company now consults to most of the capital cities and Lucchetti also points to Sekisui House, which claims it’s built two million prefab modular homes.

For Michel there’s no going back to his conventional building roots. His company is focused on providing modular bathrooms that he says can be delivered to the apartment, hospital and student accommodation market at a superior level of quality to conventional bathroom construction.

Michel said, “We’ve just started our business five months ago with prefab bathrooms and we build them completely in a factory, all furnishes and fittings.

“We do them for apartment buildings, and hospital and student accommodation and we’re designing our process so we can come down to six modules and trying to differentiate ourselves that way.

But are they tasteful and do they look good? They are whatever you want them to be, Michel says.

“There are companies that do million dollar bathrooms,” Gyrn chips in.

“It’s recognised that modular is achieving better results now. If you look at mass apartment market and hospitals they’re picking pods and modular for quality.”

It’s a production line, Michel says, like car manufacturing.