Construction sector ripe for disruption

James Riley
Editorial Director

The freshly minted Building 4.0 CRC has been given $28 million over seven years to help co-create innovative products and processes at the intersection of ‘Industrialised Building’ and ‘Industry 4.0’.

Its focus is literally where the construction sector meets data science, the internet of things and all that automated goodness of the fourth industrial age.

Industry Minister Karen Andrews said the work of the Building 4.0 CRC was to create lower cost, smart housing “solutions” while improving Australian capability as an advanced manufacturer of buildings.

The proponents of the nation’s newest cooperative research centre Building 4.0 CRC say Australia’s existing high-cost, low-tech building sector is an ideal target for disruption.

The Building 4.0 CRC brings together industry researchers with private sector who have committed a further $102.9 million in cash and kind from partners including Lendlease, Bluescope, Master Builders, Salesforce and cloud provider AWS.

Lower cost smarter housing is a construction industry key

The Building 4.0 CRC chief executive Mathew Aitchison, who is also Professor of Architecture at Monash University said the CRC’s partners had put forward a series of ‘Lighthouse Projects’ that would be realised across the seven years of the funding.

“These are full-scale, real buildings that are being planned and built by our partners, into which the R&D carried out in projects will be applied,” Prof Aitchison told InnovationAus.

“This will ensure that research gets out of the lab and into society in a way that both the wider industry and the general public can engage and interact with.”

Prof Aitchison said that understanding the implications and opportunities provided by the marriage of ‘Industrialised Building’ approaches with ‘Industry 4.0’ was really the core challenge of the CRC.

“Several companies in Australia have made significant advances in industrialised building over the past decade. Industry 4.0, as a production methodology or a form of business management, is not widespread in the construction and property sectors,” he said.

“Building 4.0 proposes that over the next seven years the innovations and R&D emerging from the CRC will become industry best practices.”

While the penetration of new technologies on construction sites was often quite poor, particular in relation to the data skills in smaller firms, the state of affairs was changing rapidly.

“We see a major part of our work in translating and integrating the technologies, techniques and lessons from other sectors into this recast building industry.,” Prof Aitchison said.

“Lighthouse projects are the ideal vehicle to communicate these advances as they are the lingua franca of the mainstream construction industry, which tends not to believe that which it cannot touch and feel.”

The Building 4.0 CRC has set ambitious targets for its work, including cutting project costs by 30 per cent, an up to 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions and 80 percent reduction in construction waste.

Minister Andrews also announced that a new SmartCrete CRC would receive $21 million in funding to reduce the cost of concrete and improve productivity.

“Concrete is so essential to our building industry and public infrastructure projects that even small savings and increases in productivity can make a massive difference,” Mrs Andrews said.

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