Highlights from the 2018 CAMP.H Annual Forum

Every year we bring together all the members of the centre to share the successes, goals, capabilities and ongoing opportunities for collaboration within CAMP.H and the prefabrication industry.

Group shot of the forum attendees.

This year the annual forum was held in conjunction with the International Symposium and Workshops ‘A Smart Sustainable Future for All 2018’ (SSF18) at the invitation of the co-chairs Prof Abbas Rajabifard and Prof Greg Foliente, from the Centre for Spatial Data Infrastructures and Land Administration (CSDILA) and Centre for Disaster Management and Public Safety (CDMPS) at the University of Melbourne.

This Symposium, co-hosted by the World Bank Group (the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and the Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice), brought together key players from academia, industry, government and major intergovernmental agencies to discuss themes of sustainable development, disaster resilience, geospatial technologies and global policy frameworks.

CAMP.H was invited to attend in light of our mission to create resilient, sustainable and affordable housing solutions in Australia and abroad, supporting the Symposium’s collective vision to build a smart and sustainable future for all.

This forum offered our centre the opportunity to take part in a truly global conversation around our shared future – and engage stakeholders outside our usual channels.

A year in the life of CAMP.H

Priyan Mendis, Abbas Rajabifard and Tuan Ngo speaking at the forum

The annual forum kicked off with a presentation from our Director Prof Priyan Mendis, who shared a few highlights from the year.

Prof Mendis noted CAMP.H’s leading role in the prefabrication industry including the 2018 prefabAUS conference, and the launch of a new industry publication Built Offsite by prefabAUS – in which CAMP.H has already published a number of articles.

He also gave a quick overview of our activities and articles published in Pursuit this year, including ‘The future is prefabricated’,  ‘Building the prefab schools of the future’ and ‘The particles making building cladding fire-safe’.

To conclude, he underlined the significance of CAMP.H being invited to present to all ARC staff in Canberra, including the ARC CEO Prof Sue Thomas, as an indicator of notable government interest in Australia’s growing prefabrication industry.

Following this review of the year, SSF18 Symposium Chair Prof Abbas Rajabifard welcomed everyone to the forum and our Research Director Prof Tuan Ngo gave an overview of the Asia-Pacific Research Network for Resilient Affordable Housing (APRAH), as well as regional opportunities for research and industry.

Keynote highlights

A major highlight from the annual forum was our two keynote speakers: Dr Shan Kumar, the Principal Engineer at Hickory; and Prof Debes Bhattacharyya, the founding Director of the Centre for Advanced Composite Materials at the University of Auckland.

Dr Shan Kumar at right of image

Dr Kumar was named one of Australia’s Most Innovative Engineers by Engineers Australia in 2017. He recently led the pioneering work on the first high-rise project to use design for manufacture and assembly construction methods (DfMA) – La Trobe Tower

He discussed how the prefabrication industry has evolved over the time, and how the practices have changed from the structural elements to modular construction. He used the example of the La Trobe Tower, built by Hickory, to highlight the major benefit of prefabrication over normal construction: substantially shorter construction times.

These shorter construction times are largely due to prefabrication taking place in a factory environment where the weather conditions are stable, there is increased safety and efficiency, and there are greater possibilities for automation. In addition, he discussed how warehouse construction is creating new employment opportunities for people who previously worked in automotive manufacturing.

Prof Debes Bhattacharyya at left of image

Following on from Dr Kumar, Prof Debes Bhattacharyya discussed his work at the Centre for Advanced Composite Materials in Auckland. He gave an academic showcase of how they develop new materials with consideration for a range of different performance criteria.

Similar to CAMP.H, their centre collaborates widely with industry to create composite material solutions. He gave several examples of industry projects and testing programs that the centre uses to validate new materials.

There were many learnings from his talk about successful industry–research partnerships and their necessity for the future of engineering – a message that resonated strongly with participants at the forum.

The state of the industry

This talk was an excellent segue to a range of updates from our industry partners facilitated by Ms Maral Tecer, the chair of our Industry Advisory Committee, which convened earlier that day.

These updates gave cross-exposure to our industry partners so that they could share their current challenges, and learn from each other about the different ways to collaborate with the CAMP.H research network.

Ms Tecer wrapped up this session by talking about the successes industry has already achieved with CAMP.H.

A key example she discussed was the invention of an alternative void-form system for the residential system recently developed by Dr Shanaka Kristombu Baduge. This project has led to an IP agreement for the University of Melbourne, which will be commercialised by the Australian Reinforcing Company (ARC).

Ms Tecer spent some time discussing the importance of not letting IP issues get in the way of collaboration, because there is plenty of scope for negotiation with the University.

Compromise is always possible, and IP should not be a reason to avoid engaging in collaboration that can greatly increase the impact of our collective work. 

Ms Tecer highlighted that CAMP.H allows everyone to collaborate – including amongst industry members – and encouraged everyone involved to continue bridging the gap between academia and industry.

The CAMP.H 101

Following lunch, our lead researchers at CAMP.H provided an update of the centre’s capabilities, including some of our key successes in delivering solutions for industry since the centre was established. As follows, these include:

  • Our advanced modelling and optimisation capabilities, as well as expertise in fire performance assisted Timber Building Systems (TBS) to solve their structure and fire issues.
  • Our testing and experiments of wall systems allowed XLam and Envirosip to evaluate their structural performance.
  • Our expertise in acoustic and thermal comfort benefitted Habitech Systems and Sensum in monitoring their current performance and performing simulations.

The session also touched on the benefits of prefabricated buildings in lifecycle analysis and sustainability – and how prefabrication could help the construction industry build a more circular ‘cradle-to-cradle’ economy.

We also had presentations from PhD students across the ARC CAMP.H network, and were delighted to see the high-quality of our doctoral researchers’ work.

Wensu Chen and Alexandra McRobert

We were particularly pleased to have two researchers representing CAMP.H universities from interstate – a big thank you to Ms Alexandra McRobert from Sydney University, and Dr Wensu Chen from Curtin University (who gave an update about some PhD projects in Curtin) for travelling to Melbourne for the forum.

It is wonderful to see the promising young researchers coming through our prefabrication training pipeline, and inspiring to think what this next generation of engineers – with their comprehensive understanding of industry challenges – will be able to achieve for Australia’s prefabrication industry.

Next on the horizon

Group shot of the forum attendees.
Priyan Mendis presenting

This year’s annual forum demonstrated the significant impact that CAMP.H has already had by creating a sustainable training eco-system between industry and Australian Universities.

The innovative thinking and projects taking place in our network are unlocking Australia’s potential to be a world-player in the prefabrication industry. And as our invitation to attend SSF18 demonstrates, even take part in a larger global conversation about the more resilient and sustainable societies that our governments and international agencies are trying to build.

We thank you for being involved with CAMP.H and look forward to the next round of successes from our shared endeavour.