Advanced building systems and assembly

Prefabricated modules or the panelised elements come as a pre-finished product which has to comply with structural, fire, acoustic, thermal, energy and fire requirements. Also, the prefabricated buildings are built off-site as modules, they have to be connected on-site in order to achieve desired structural behaviour considering gravity and extreme lateral loading conditions such as wind and earthquakes. Therefore, the prefabricated buildings require advanced building systems and assembly methods in order to perform as a multi-functional pre-finished system with competing performance requirements.

Considering that, this research program will enable technological advancements in modular building system and assembly by developing new conceptual systems and assembly taking into account the multi-functional requirements. The research program will consider the importance of optimising the overall assembly process and manufacturing when developing advanced building systems and assembly. The main outcome will be a set of materials and design standards for advanced building systems and assembly as well as physical prototypes and prefabricated modules produced by partner organisations.

The project will use simulation and advanced system analysis to address the performance of modular construction solutions including the optimisation of the assembly procedure based on design constraints such as strength, serviceability, weight, manufacturability, and costs. As these individual objectives are often competing, flexible customisation strategies will assist in addressing the variation in modular designs by developing a digital-aid design tool for component sharing swapping and modularity (interchangeable parts) or modular platform design (a base structure that supports different attachments). Considering the complexity, the optimisation techniques will make use of sophisticated modelling approaches, including computational fluid dynamics, finite element analysis, energy software, day-lighting simulators, and 3D drafting, to capture the essential features of the complex building behaviours and functionality. This software approach will be augmented with an experimental program to improve the robustness of the building systems to withstand extreme actions such as cyclones, bushfires, windborne debris impact or accidental explosions. The results of these experiments will feedback into the software to help specify the optimisation metrics. Furthermore, considering the importance of integrating the services (heating, ventilation and air conditioning, plumbing and electrical) and energy-harvesting strategies-solar and wind energy-within the structural components of prefabricated houses, the research program will focus to establish a computational and design framework for developing new technologies for the services component in modular construction. The study will develop an efficient method leading to minimisation of total assembly and installation of services system. Finally, the method identifies the optimum sets of modules and module divisions based on assembly cost and capacity of the lifting equipment. Such a framework is essential for introducing innovative uses of building fabric materials by incorporating passive and active solar energy systems and use of available solar hot water and solar PV products as add-on elements to the building solution.