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Australian construction industry set for new heights

22 November, 2005

Australia's $90 billion construction industry could be an international leader in sustainable building methods by 2020, according to the finding of the Construction 2020 report by the Cooperative Research Centre for Construction Innovation.

The report identifies eight ways technology can help lift the Australian building and construction sector to a new level of success. Environmentally sustainable construction- which minimises the impact of building on the environment - is the area of greatest potential.

It predicts that Australian building companies will have a significant impact on the global construction industry provided they can overcome the current fragmented state of the industry.

"There are more than 230,000 firms and 730,000 individuals in the industry - but what is clear is that many are now prepared to work hard together, and with researchers, to solve that problem," says Construction Innovation Chief Executive Officer Professor Keith Hampson.

The report says the industry is the backbone of the national economy, with construction, supply and project firms accounting for 14 per cent of gross domestic product. It is growing at 2.6% a year and has huge untapped export potential.

The report identifies eight ways that technology can help lift the Australian building and construction sector to a new level of success.

"The first and clearest, agreed across the industry, is that environmentally sustainable construction - the creation of buildings and infrastructure that minimise their impact on the natural environment - is an area of great potential," says Prof. Hampson.

"Here technologies like Construction Innovation's LCADesign can make a big difference. This is a calculator that works out automatically from 3D computer aided design the environmental and economic costs of materials in a building - at the push of a button.

"By 2020, working with industry, we'd expect to have a comprehensive set of eco-design tools for all stages of the construction life cycle, to minimise energy use, greenhouse and other forms of waste or pollution."

Other technology and management goals developed in consultation with the industry include:

greater flexibility in meeting client demands
a better business environment, with greater sharing of ideas and skills and a lower regulatory burden
greater health and safety for the construction workforce, and upskilling for a fast-changing business environment
leading-edge communication and IT technologies embedded in industry products and processes
virtual prototyping for key products and major steps in the construction process, to ensure greater efficiency
Off-site manufacture and on-site assembly for the majority of construction products for enhanced quality control and lower environmental and financial costs
a re-engineered industry supply-chain using leading edge manufacturing processes and quality control throughout.
Construction 2020 was compiled after extensive consultation with building firms small and large in all States and is the first major report on the long-term outlook for the industry since the late 1990s, Prof. Hampson says.

"There is clearly consensus that by working more closely together and using the latest in technology, the industry can achieve even greater feats than in the past, especially in the field of sustainable construction. It's a very exciting prospect.

"This also gives small and medium companies a chance to get on board with the larger players, to capture the latest technologies and to share in the global expansion of our industry."

Particular areas of focus include the development of nationally uniform codes of practice, new tools to evaluate design and product performance, comparisons with overseas industries, and a worldwide research network to ensure that Australian technology stays at the cutting edge.

Cooperative Research Centres Association

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