High-Performance Prefinished Modular Building System [HPPMBS]

High-Performance Prefinished Modular Building System [HPPMBS]

Keywords: Net Zero, Infratech, Western Sydney, Affordable, Housing, Sustainability, Pods, Technology, Smart Energy

Born from a collaborative project between the Modular Prefab Design Laboratory (MPD-Lab) of Western Sydney University and Infratech Industries, this project develops ground-breaking high-performance prefabricated prefinished building along with integrated energy harvesting systems, using a set of standardised modular volumetric units (Pods).

The build is based on advanced offsite manufacturing techniques, supporting a Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) concept to significantly enhance the quality of build and produce efficient life cycle costs while reducing the following:

  • time to build,
  • material wastage
  • site pollution
  • overall energy consumption in the manufacture and erection process

The building blocks of the Pods are formed of prefabricated prefinished volumetric units manufactured in controlled conditions off site which are then transported to the build site and assembled using an innovative interconnection. The innovative interconnection creates a moment resisting frame that can be used for the construction of multi-storey modular buildings up to 20 stories without the need for a structural core.

It is estimated that eliminating the need for a structural core will minimise the use of concrete and wet-work onsite that will then significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the building and enhance the speed of build by up to a third. The use of eco-friendly and fully recyclable materials such as CO2 concrete (for floors) and Steel, will be a necessary step towards adoption of the circular economy in the building industry and a step towards net-zero construction.  These Pod structures can easily be demounted and recycled at the end of their life or at a time dictated by planning changes or calamites.

In addition, the proposed technology offers greater advantages over existing prefabricated systems which are limited to lower rise buildings with limited configurations and built around a core.  The Pods are characterised by:

  • lower over-all weight, which makes transport more sustainable and cost effective
  • ease and speed of assembly with no site welding and innovative moment transferring connections
  • the ability to be configured in countless different arrangements on a floor plate
  • modular services all precision manufactured with a chain of custody certification

The design provides high redundancy for better structural robustness and collapse resisting mechanisms under severe loading conditions including earthquake and fire. This innovative solution minimises the trade-off between standardisation versus flexibility, in order to unlock the ability to deliver on the principals of sustainable life cycle cost of buildings.  The adaptability and variability of the Pods does not compromise cost and this is a solution that will change affordability of housing.

Whilst the traditional Building industry traditional contributes to about 30% of an economy’s energy consumption, HPPMBS aims to be Net Zero in a world that needs to rapidly respond to climate change.

The following are the building blocks of the technology

1. Development of new interconnection and standardised structural backbone

The innovative interconnection and modular structural backbone supports buildings of up to 20 stories, without a need for a structural core or any onsite concrete work. The innovative structural backbone provides long-span column free spaces that can offer high flexibility in architectural design and adaptation to a variety of applications.

2. Design of high-performance modular pods

The modular prefabricated prefinished volumetric pods are designed to easily assemble and create different designs.  The use of low carbon material for construction, advanced manufacturing techniques for production, built in modular services, and energy efficient interior systems make it a high-performance building system.

3. Design of energy efficient modular façade and energy
harvesting system

Innovative energy-harvesting technology integrated into a new modular façade system both inside and outside ensures a highly energy efficient building envelop for the building and a source of energy for domestic use.  As 80% of the cost of operating a building are typically attributable to environmental comfort control and lighting, the combination of smart design tools for thermal façades and opportunities for on-site energy harvesting will help in reducing these costs.

4.Smart energy management system and health monitoring

A computer-aided tool used by operators of electric utility grids to monitor, control, and optimize performance, along with a self-powered structural health monitoring system integral in building maintenance. The health monitoring system is unique in that defects are identified at the time of occurrence rather than waiting for visual cues which can be dangerous.  Working in real time is safe and secure for infrastructure maintenance and longevity.

5.Life cycle and carbon emission assessment

A comprehensive program for assessing the green rating performance of the high-performance modular building systems, leading to a smart zero carbon building, while minimising construction waste.

This project is fully funded by Infratech Industries, an award-winning innovative company specialising in technology that directly translates into energy savings.  Following the successful launch of Australia’s first floating solar plant targeted at councils with water bodies, Infratech has now developed a Gen 2 system that cuts its cost in half that will be marketed to irrigators with water bodies worldwide at half the cost and time currently seen.  The Gen 2 system is also being developed as an algal bio reactor that can help reduce the nutrients in water while generating power adding to a dual benefit as opposed to simply generating renewable energy.  Infratech™ is also currently developing the High-Performance Prefinished Modular Building System [HPPMBS] that will attempt to cut costs and provide energy savings to a plethora of customers at the same time. Infratech was selected in 2017 by Westpac as one of the 200 Businesses of Tomorrow, in 2016 was the Banksia, Smart award Winner and Etihad Airways, Game Changing Innovation Award and in 2015 won the Earthmover and Civil Contractor, Environmental Choice Award,

Western Sydney University (WSU) is within the top 250 and in the past 4 years has placed 1st overall worldwide and 1st in Australia in the prestigious annual ranking based on the commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), based on universities’ teaching, research, outreach, and stewardship. WSU is also the World’s Best University for its social, ecological, and economic impact in Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings. Modular Prefab Design Lab (MPD-Lab) is the node for research and consulting services on offsite manufacturing and modern construction technologies in Western Sydney. MPD-Lab’s activities are focused on translating the current research and knowledge in the area of offsite-manufacturing and industrialised construction into practice and removing major roadblocks preventing widespread application of such technologies in construction, and transformation to a sustainable product-based manufacturing ecosystem in Australia and beyond.

Doctor Pejman Sharafi

Senior Lecturer
Senior Research Support Program Fellow
Advanced Building Technologies

Research interests include: Design for manufacture and assembly, Modular buildings, Prefabricated construction.

Email: p.sharafi@westernsydney.edu.au