The modular construction sector is set for faster growth after the launch this week of a new draft code of practice.

The code, being developed under the guidance of the prefabAUS’s Modular Construction Codes Board, aims to “take away a lot of the fears and unknowns” for modular construction, according to MCCB steering committee member John Lucchetti. Mr Lucchetti, a principal at Wood & Grieve Engineers and a director of prefabAUS, told The Fifth Estate the code is designed not to constrain designers, but to provide guidance for industry stakeholders who want to get on board with modular methodology.

It covers the key steps in Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA), including end-of-life. It looks at structure, building services, facades, durability, transport, erection, temporary site works, traceability of materials, compliance with codes and standards, inspection and documentation, and disassembly and recycling, among other topics.

It’s a timely initiative given the growing uptake of modular approaches.

Mr Lucchetti said modular had already been used to deliver a wide variety of building typologies including projects in multi-residential, hotels, student accommodation, data centres, modular retail installations and even modular police stations and prison correctional facilities.

Healthcare is one particular sector offering enormous opportunities and seeing a good uptake, he said.

DfMA is not constrained to any particular technology. Possible approaches include volumetric manufacture, flat-pack and CLT.

One of the key differences between modular and traditional construction is that there is more to the design than just thinking about the final form, Mr Lucchetti said.

Project developers also need to consider how the modules will perform together once assembled, and how different materials will combine. For example, the differential shortening of steel and concrete in combination needs to be factored in for particular kinds of modular buildings.

DfMA offers opportunities around sustainability in terms of minimising waste and using factory acceptance testing and air tightness testing within the manufacturing setting to ensure higher levels of quality and compliance.

“We are trying to educate people about how to build modular well,” Mr Lucchetti said.

“It’s a matter of how do you achieve a building people will have confidence in?”

The development of the code has been supported by Engineers Australia, the Australian Steel Institute and the Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources. Work was initiated by James Murray-Parkes, head of the Engineering Innovations Group at Multiplex and professor of practice in the engineering faculty at Monash University.

Together with efforts from associate professor Yu Bai at Monash University and other MCCB founding members from industry, the initiative has also received significant support from the Victorian Department of State Development, Business and Innovation through the Manufacturing Productivity Networks Program.

Other contributors include Angus McFarlane, structural engineering lead at the Engineering Excellence Group at Laing O’Rourke; George Konstandakos, general manager of timber building systems and former chief executive of Hickory Building Systems; Brendon McNiven, principal in Arup’s building design team; and Dr Ben Forbes, from Monash’s Civil Engineering faculty.

The draft model code of practice is slated to be released for industry comment early in the first half of 2017.

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  1. I remain totally amazed at the misconception being pedalled by so-called DfMA experts that have sprung up from nowhere to suggest DfMA is all about modular, offsite construction (that would otherwise be undertaken onsite). It is not.
    If the construction industry is really going to learn and do DfMA, it might be prudent to first checkout how DfMA has been done in durable-goods product engineering and manufacturing, where DFMA started, and that has evolved into a reknown methodology with sophisticated supporting systems that drive product simplification and product costing efforts (the key to DFMA is in the first undertaking) and has given rise to remarkable bottom-line benefits -something Laing-Rourke has missed in spectacular fashion to the tune of tens of millions(and no wonder).
    Come on prefabAUS and MCCB, stop using acronyms you do not really understand (yet).