After writing about how construction on what will be the world's tallest modular building had slowed to a crawl, I got a tweet from Australia: "Whilst progress stalls on NYC modular tower, 9-storey Melbourne building goes up in 5 days"
It is the One9 apartment tower, "A boutique city fringe development comprising 34 one and two bedroom apartments over 9 levels, the Hickory manufactured apartments offer light filled and functional spaces for everyday living."
It was constructed using the Hickory Group's UB (Unitized Building) system, developed by architect Nonda Katsalidis, and it is not the first; there are quite a few slick modern buildings here. There are all the usual benefits of modular construction, (less time, waste, disruption) but they don't call it modular, as they have no fixed module size. While nine storeys is the highest they have gone, they claim that it "has no theoretical height limitation and is currently being specified on buildings up to 70 storeys."
There is the old line that the prefab salesmen use: "You wouldn't build your car in a driveway, why would you build your house in a field?" Most prefab factories are more like assembly lines than construction sites, but with Hickory, there is an additional factor that may give them a real advantage. Marketing Manager Nadia Salajic explains:
We have also been fortunate to hire many ex-auto manufacturing workers in our ex-situ construction facility. In Australia our manufacturing sector is facing a major crises, with Toyota, [GM subsidiary] Holden and Ford all scaling back operations, leaving hundreds out of work. Our business has been bolstered by the hire of several of these workers, as they possess the vital skills that are necessary to manufacturing and not as common to the conventional construction process. These being design and 3D modelling upfront, procurement upfront, warehousing and material reuse.
With the support of architects, developers and banks willing to back this new type of project delivery, there is a real opportunity to create a viable new industry and new hybrid-worker that is skilled across both the building and manufacturing disciplines, and provide alternative employment for these displaced auto-workers.
That is an approach that could work in North America too. More at Hickory Group, who have left North American builders in their dust.