Overview

Project status: In progress

Prefabricated housing, sometimes referred to as manufactured housing, is a promising innovation entailing the construction of the whole structure or components, offsite in a factory setting. Moving house construction processes offsite has significant advantages in both efficiency and quality compared to traditional, onsite building methods.

Application of prefabricated housing methods in Australia is low. There has been little comprehensive research into the reasons for this poor uptake. This multi-phase project aims to redress this shortcoming to understand the barriers and drivers to the use of prefabricated housing innovations in Australia.

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Grantor
  • Australian Research Council
  • Building Codes Queensland
  • Western Australian Building Commission
Amount

$298,000 combined contribution from funding partners

Research leader
Research team
QUT External collaborators
  • Professor Peter Newman, Curtin University
Organisational unit
Lead unit
Start date
29 April 2013
End date
29 April 2015
Research areas
Keywords
Prefabricated, Manufactured, Housing, Construction, Innovation, Environment, Climate change, Sustainability, Management

Contact

Contact Dr Dale Steinhardt for more information on this project.

 

Details

This project aims to comprehensively outline the barriers and drivers to the uptake of prefabricated housing innovations in Australia. Specifically, the project aims to:

  • describe the current state of the prefabricated housing industry in Australia through an examination of the key participants and their activities
  • determine the beliefs of Australian builders regarding prefabrication
  • develop and disseminate policy recommendations to encourage the uptake of prefabrication.

Background

The current project addresses the problem of climate change by seeking to reduce the impact of the building sector on greenhouse gas generation. A large ecological footprint is associated with both the construction and post-occupancy operation of residential buildings. Prefabrication is a promising innovation as it increases both efficiency and quality. Build efficiency is achieved by removing the need to coordinate large numbers of individual onsite contractors, while quality is achieved by applying repetitive, quality controlled factory processes. Prefabricated houses also promise improved insulation and energy performance once occupied.

Despite long-standing knowledge regarding the potential environmental and productivity benefits, there has been a low adoption rate of prefabrication among builders both in Australia and many other jurisdictions. There is currently no comprehensive research into the reasons for this poor uptake of prefabrication. While a number of advantages and disadvantages associated with prefabrication have been identified, little research has been devoted to understanding the range of both practical and wider contextual issues that frame adoption decisions. The current project addresses these research gaps through a mixed methods program of research underpinned by clear theoretical frameworks.

Project Phases

Phase 1 – Literature Review and Industry Profile: 2013

The first phase of the project consists of two sub-studies providing background data. Firstly, a systematic literature review of published academic and industry evidence regarding prefabricated housing since 1990 was conducted. This review was guided by a theoretical open innovation systems model and investigated the influence of suppliers, builders, clients and consumers, the policy context, and technical issues to the uptake of prefabrication.

Secondly, the nature and context of the Australian prefabricated housing industry was reviewed.The review identified Australian-based businesses fulfilling the roles of either a manufacturer supplying prefabricated housing products or a builder applying such products. Contextual factors were also discussed, including a comparison of the Australian housing context to key international jurisdictions with varying levels of prefabrication adoption.

Phase 2 – Qualitative Study of Builders: 2013-2014

The second phase of the project consists of interviews undertaken with builders in Queensland and Western Australia to determine the beliefs underpinning their decision to use prefabrication. The interview questions were guided by the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) and Technology Acceptance Model (TAM), and explored potential influences such as ease of use, attitudes, key influential persons or groups, and external control factors.

Phase 3 – Quantitative Survey of Builders: 2014

The third and final data collection phase of the project will consist of a large-scale online, quantitative survey of builders in Queensland and Western Australia. This survey will quantify and verify which of the influences identified in Phase 2 are significant in affecting builders' intentions to use prefabrication.

Phase 4 – Development of Recommendations: 2014-2015

Best practice recommendations for how to encourage prefabrication uptake will be formulated based on the data collected in the prior three phases. The recommendations and specific results of the project will be disseminated to the project partners and the wider community through academic journal papers, industry reports and media articles.

Partnerships

Universities

  • Curtin University

Government

  • Building Codes Queensland
  • Western Australian Building Commission.