Prefabricated construction techniques show promise as long-term solutions for rebuilding disaster zones in remote and rural locations, according to Monash University professor Mehrdad Arashpour.
As long as thought goes into the location of prefab buildings – such as their proximity to water sources – modular, off-site construction can be viable long-term residences in disaster zones, Dr Arashpour told The Fifth Estate.
Prefabricated, self-contained buildings are also sustainable options for short-term disaster relief as they can be continually reused, Dr Arashpour said. In disaster-prone locations, such as Japan, ready-made modules can be built cheaply, stockpiled until needed and then assembled at speed. Japanese prefab company Daiwa Lease, for example, has set up a production line in emerging Asian countries that can divert product to Japan when a disaster happens and homes are needed.
Critically, the modular, panellised nature of prefab construction means that buildings are reconfigurable and easily adapted to be used as temporary schools or medical clinics instead of housing, for example.
Another benefit of prefab buildings is that they can be installed with minimal skills and tools.
Sustainability benefits include a lower carbon footprint and high thermal performance, Dr Arashpour said.
He added that the thermal performance of most modules work best in cool climates, although they can be used in warmer locations.
Most prefab buildings are also easier to recycle because they are quick to dismantle.
Prefabricated construction techniques are finally getting attention after decades of failing to penetrate the industry in any meaningful way.
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Dr Arashpour said prefab take-up would become an increasingly attractive option once a more integrated construction, manufacturing and transport process is established.
“We need high-precision manufacturing and this needs to mimicked at site, with the correct dimensions… We haven’t quite nailed the practical implementation.”