Featured in The Fifth Estate: Success for Hickory in affordable prefab

    The Western Australian government is behind an affordable modular apartment building currently being assembled in the Perth suburb of Success, expected to be erected in under 10 days. And researchers from the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute have been engaged to perform a detailed study of the construction method, which director Professor Peter Newman says “promises to break the cost spiral on high-rise construction”.

    The Adara Apartments project is part of the Stella Village community, a transit-oriented development being delivered by the Western Australian Department of Housing in partnership with the private sector, including developer Goldmaster Enterprises. It has been designed to enable affordable and accessible housing to one of Perth’s fastest growing regions, with apartments offered under the National Rental Affordability Scheme as well as the WA Shared Home Ownership Scheme, which allows the purchase of properties from the government with a deposit of as little as $2000.

    The apartment development has been largely prefabricated by Hickory Group, with modules being manufactured in the company’s Melbourne plant. It is currently being erected by Goodland Building Company, which has also worked on all the in-situ elements.

    Hickory said that the dual construction method being implemented allows buildings to take shape 50 per cent faster than with conventional sequential on-site construction. The building modules are completed at Hickory’s Melbourne factory then shipped to Perth where they are craned into place “like a Lego set”.

    Complexity and quality can still be achieved

    Hickory managing director Michael Argyrou said the speed of prefab construction didn’t mean there had to be compromises on quality or design outcomes.

    “Unlike other modular construction, which has to date consisted of lower quality container type systems that can only produce buildings of a few levels, our systems are engineered for high-rise towers,” Mr Argryou said. “We are also flexible in architectural design, and the complex façade elements of the Adara Apartments development attest to that, it’s a very striking looking building.”

    CUSP and Hickory join forces to measure benefits

    Hickory is currently working with CUSP to quantify the benefits of its construction methodology.

    “Perth has a huge problem with high-rise development being far too expensive and often not being located near good transit services,” CUSP director Professor Peter Newman said. “The Adara Apartments is not just well located but it promises to break the cost spiral on high-rise.”

    While there were obvious savings in carbon emissions, time and cost ($1 million for this project) with prefabricated construction, all factors would be greatly improved if Hickory had a local manufacturing plant, Professor Newman said. Preliminary results, he said, suggested embedded energy was reduced slightly across the whole life cycle of the building compared to conventional construction, but the savings would be substantial if the modules did not have to be shipped.

    Even so, Professor Newman said, all in all the move to prefab was welcome news.

    “It’s a new era for construction in Perth,” he said.

    Cameron Jewell, The Fifth Estate, 17 July, 2014

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