Panelised timber in construction partnership

Panelised timber in construction partnership

June 1, 2017

Frame Australia conference delegates will be able to study how panelised production – prefabricated floors and walls – is used in construction during a Delegate Tour to a major housing project in Melbourne. 
 
Builders and suppliers using panelised production for residential are thin on the ground in Australia at present, but developer Mirvac and Drouin West Timber & Truss have forged a strong partnership for construction at the ‘Tullamore’ housing estate at Doncaster in the city’s east.
 
Mirvac will design and build initially 300 medium-density homes, while the innovative West Gippsland firm will supply cassette floors and panellised walls. 
 
The master plan for the 47-hectare former golf course involves 1000 homes, with the remaining 700 lots released as land. Mirvac will also build 300-400 apartments to a height of five levels along Doncaster Rd.
 
Timber framing is predominantly being used in the medium-density housing, says Mirvac’s construction manager, Kase Jong, who has previous experience in using panelised production.
 
“Everything above the concrete basements is traditional timber framing, back to the basics,” he says. 
 
“But we are pushing the boundaries with the panelised floors and walls.”
 
The cassette floors are generally six metres by 2.4 metres in size, while the panelised walls are up to three metres high and six metres long.
 
A recent trip to Europe reinforced to Mr Jong that Australia is on the right path regarding panelisation. “We are doing the right thing. We need to finesse it and grow to achieve a critical mass – to provide a greater selection of manufacturers and suppliers that can feed this market,” he says. 
 
“Sweden – they have multiple builders and manufacturers that produce panelised floors and walls. We have here only a handful. That limits what we can push into the market place.” 
 
The lesson is to start small with floor cassettes, then progress to the next step with panel walls. 
 
“This is what we are doing now. I find it more interesting than building in a standard format,” says Mr Jong.
 
Drouin West produces the cassettes and panelised walls, then installs them for Mirvac almost to the lock-up stage. “For me it’s been a fantastic journey with them,” he says. 
 
Manufacturing has to start more than a month beforehand – Mr Jong worked two months with Drouin West on detailing - to maintain the progress on site during supply. 
 
Prefabrication offers a different service and a different product.  “It will be a slow grind to get the industry and supply chain to start really focussing attention to expand their business to provide different product lines,” he says.
 
“Suppliers need to partner with builders, hold their hand for the first few developments to get the builder comfortable before they can start letting go of the service part and become a commodity supplier of the material. 
 
They become a pseudo-builder for the first stage. That’s what Drouin West is doing with us.”
 
Mr Jong estimates it is a slight premium to move to panelised wall systems compared to conventional building. “But you may pick up six to eight weeks on the program” he said. 
 
Frame 2017 titled ‘Timber Offsite Construction’ will be held on Monday and Tuesday 19-20 June 2017 at Park Hyatt Melbourne, and for event details visit the website www.frameaustralia.com 
 

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