Could prefab save car industry workers?

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The world's first carbon positive prefabricated house, by practice Archiblox.

The world’s first carbon positive prefabricated house, by practice Archiblox. Image: Tom Ross

Transferring skills from the dwindling car manufacturing industry to the modular building industry could bring huge benefits, according to a professor from the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Low Carbon Living.

Project leader professor Peter Newman said that developing Australia’s prefabricated building manufacturing industry could create jobs, grow the economy and help to alleviate housing affordability issues.

Newman said that only 3 percent of Australia’s building industry is modular at the moment, while the global modular building industry was estimated to be worth $90 billion in 2012 and is set to grow by around 10 percent by 2020.

“There is a huge opportunity to develop this industry, transfer skills from our dying auto industry and provide jobs,” he said. ”Modular building also means less waste and lower carbon emissions, so we really want a piece of this pie.”

Newman emphasized the urgency of the transition, pointing out that foreign countries are already ahead of Australia in building manufacturing.

“If we do not seize this building manufacturing opportunity right now, foreign companies will certainly continue to bring [other products] to the market, which could ultimately lead to job losses in the building sector and its supply chain,” he said.

Prefabricated housing is gaining popularity and interest in Australia, with $4 million recently given to the University of Melbourne to develop a Training Centre for Advanced Manufacturing in Prefabricated Housing. The centre is designed to help Australia’s prefabricated housing industry catch up with other countries that have more advanced modular building industries.

The CRC for Low Carbon Living created a video about Australia’s modular building industry in collaboration with the Sustainable Built Environment National Research Centre, which can be viewed below.

The CRC for Low Carbon Living is a national hub for research and innovation that aims to foster a low carbon built environment sector that is globally competitive.

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