Building Services
Check out the latest news, industry trends, product innovations and best practices in the Australian Building and Construction industry from builders, builders associations and experts on Top4 News.
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Should Large Public Construction Projects Be Broken Up?

Should Large Public Construction Projects Be Broken Up? | Building Services | Scoop.it

There has been a tendency in Australia over recent years to fall into the trap of a boom/bust type cycle for public sector related building and civil engineering infrastructure projects.


In this cycle, governments splash out cash from higher tax receipts in good times but pull back when conditions are tough and finances stretched.


Under this phenomenon, a surplus of projects hits the books amid strong balance sheets during better times, which puts upward pressure on costs. This is followed by a shortage of work during lean periods which leads to redundancies. This in turn means resources are tight and skills in limited supply when the inevitable upturn comes again.

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ACT contractors want help from Senate building insolvency probe

ACT contractors want help from Senate building insolvency probe | Building Services | Scoop.it

Canberra building subcontractors left tens of millions of dollars out of pocket by insolvencies and payment disputes are hoping and praying a Senate Committee will come to their rescue.


The report of the Senate's Economics References Committee inquiry into insolvency in the construction industry is due to be tabled on Thursday afternoon.


Wayne Richards said his Queanbeyan based Erincole Building Services lost more than $1 million in a dispute with the John Holland Group, the lead contractor on the National Portrait Gallery.


"Four years down the track we're still suffering," he said. "We won five times in the Supreme Court but had to settle out of court because we couldn't afford to fight another appeal [at $40,000 a time]."


The inquiry was told such losses were the tip of the iceberg with insolvencies and disputes costing creditors anywhere between $2 billion and $2.72 billion in the 2013-2014 year.  Mr Richards said he hoped the SERC would come up with a way to ensure sub contractors received a fair go.

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Gold Coast divided over proposal to allow construction works outside prescribed times

Gold Coast divided over proposal to allow construction works outside prescribed times | Building Services | Scoop.it

THE Gold Coast could echo to the sounds of building construction around the clock, seven days a week, if a proposal being considered by the city council goes ahead.


The council says the changes are needed so the city can deliver the sporting venues needed for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, but critics say it will mean the sound of jackhammers day and night.


The proposal will be opposed by construction industry unions on safety grounds and city councillors suspect it will divide the community. In a public notice, the city council said it was proposing to amend public, health, safety and amenity laws to “allow for building work and delivery of building materials outside the prescribed times”.

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Billions Wiped from Construction Outlook

Billions Wiped from Construction Outlook | Building Services | Scoop.it

In its latest forecast, Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) has slashed almost $2 billion of its previous forecast issued in July for 2015/16 and as much as $9.5 billion from its longer range forecast out to 2018/19. The organisation said previously anticipated further growth in the residential sector was now unlikely to materialise and the downturn in civil construction would be deeper than expected.


In addition, ACIF says around 20,000 jobs would be lost in 2015/16.  ACIF construction forecasting council chair Adrian Harrington said the revised forecasts represent a ‘substantial change in prospects’ for workers and businesses across the sector from designers through to builders, tradespeople and young people trying to enter the construction workforce. Harrington added the changed outlook also applies to an overall economy which is attempting to transition from an over-reliance on resource related work.


The Forum’s lead forecaster, Kerry Barwise, said the revised estimates reflect broader changes at the macro level.  “The big shift in the outlook largely reflects the dip we are experiencing from a recent peak in spending in residential building, plus the continuing decline from the peak in engineering construction we enjoyed with the mining and resources boom,” he said.

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Construction demand may surprise housing bears

Construction demand may surprise housing bears | Building Services | Scoop.it

Building and construction stocks have been soft, but a fillip may be just around the corner. Building materials stocks live and die by leading indicators.


Despite bumper results, thanks to Australia’s property boom, there has been a sell-off this year in companies such as Boral and CSR because of uncertainty about whether construction levels have peaked. After insisting for months that interest rates and years of under-building in NSW would fuel demand for its products, CSR chief Rob Sindel has finally made progress in convincing the sceptics the growth is there.


CSR posted a bumper 32 per cent lift in first-half net profit on November 4, notching up seven straight years of earnings growth. With margins in better shape than they have been for a decade and generous dividends, CSR’s story is now easier to sell. It helped ease fears the housing cycle has peaked and was an important lesson for investors in building companies who exit the stock at the first sign that construction activity is pulling back, despite remaining at near-record levels.

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Aussie bricklaying robot brings the fight to builders

Aussie bricklaying robot brings the fight to builders | Building Services | Scoop.it

Fastbrick Robotics lands on the ASX. An Australian robotics firm is aiming to disrupt the local bricklaying market with a machine it says will be able to build a four-bedroom house in two days, without any human interaction.


Fastbrick Robotics will today begin trading on the Australian Stock Exchange after a backdoor listing by DMY Capital in June this year. The firm has spent more than $7 million over ten years designing and developing its prototype robotic building machine, the Hadrian 105, which can automatically lay bricks over an entire residential building site.


A recent $5.7 million capital raising - much more than the $3 million DMY was targeting - will be used to build the Hadrian 109, which will be able to lay bricks for an entire house and allow Fastbrick to roll out the technology commercially.




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ChAFTA Is a Win for the Building and Construction Industry

ChAFTA Is a Win for the Building and Construction Industry | Building Services | Scoop.it

Contrary to the claims of unions, the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement marks a big win for the Australian construction industry.


The unions, particularly the CFMEU and the ETU, have attempted to portray the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) as an evil that will undermine Australia’s way of life and living standards when the exact opposite is the case.


The unions' motives need to be questioned because their misleading campaign coincides with the Royal Commission’s exposure of CFMEU conduct which is totally out of line with community standards of behaviour. Not only is the CFMEU and ETU campaign politically driven, their claims are simply not supported by the facts.

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Container-Skyscrapers Could Help Vulnerable Communities

Container-Skyscrapers Could Help Vulnerable Communities | Building Services | Scoop.it

Shipping containers were all the buzz a few years ago, finding uses as pop-up food trucks and retail stores or placed in tourist locations for exclusive views.


Now a skyscraper competition has reignited the conversation demonstrating the opportunity for shipping containers to provide housing solutions, particularly for vulnerable communities.


Along with the environmental benefits of repurposing an unused shipping container, the Superskyscrapers’ Competition: Steel City – Container Skycraper asked entrants to design a temporary skyscraper solution for the densely populated Dharavi Slum in Mumbai, India. Local firm local firm Ganti+Associates placed first with a proposal that sees containers stacked 10 storeys high in a Jenga-type formation.

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How to Best Optimise the Design of Built Assets

How to Best Optimise the Design of Built Assets | Building Services | Scoop.it

Alternative contractual arrangements such as PPPs as well as mass production facilitated by prefab could hold the key to incentivising the use of innovative methods and technologies in the development of today’s built assets.


Speaking at the sidelines of the Bentley 2015 Year in Infrastructure, Raoul Karp, VP Structural and BrIM at Bentley Systems, said the use of alternative contractual arrangements such as private-public partnerships (PPP) and owner-operator solutions is spurring the adoption of innovative methods for the development of complex infrastructure assets.


I think also where you have these new contract types – such as public-private partnerships and owner-operators, then the whole team development is incentivised by the end result of the project," said Karp. "When we see these new kinds of contracts for more complex projects, members are incentivised by the overall outcome of the project, as opposed to just producing a design before they hand it over to the next set of people to built, and then another set of people to operate it."

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Using Expert Determination to Resolve Building Disputes

Using Expert Determination to Resolve Building Disputes | Building Services | Scoop.it

Expert determination is an effective - if little talked about - means of resolving disputes in the building industry. But what does it entail? We were acting for a property developer and the contractor was a household name in the building industry responsible for the construction of some very fine Melbourne tall towers.


The contract negotiations were very straightforward, as was the project. This is not surprising, for when you get two seasoned and sensible contracting parties that have done their due diligence on one another, things tend to bode well.


The dispute resolution clause, however, was very interesting and notwithstanding its inherent “intelligence” in terms of the way it was crafted, I have rarely since then sighted a similar provision. The dispute resolution provision was an expert determination clause.

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Why Underquoting Hurts Everyone

Why Underquoting Hurts Everyone | Building Services | Scoop.it

I have lost count the number of times I see contractor trying to do $90,000 job for $75,000. 


Such underquoting is not limited to small jobs, either; it's no different than the builder who tenders $6 million for a job that everyone knows can’t be done for less than $7.3 million. This problem has at its heart the wrong motivations, and then catastrophic consequences. The causes and effects here are so interrelated, it is far easier to understand them by looking at them separately. This is what I see first-hand from the adjudication applications we have done over the years:


The race to the bottom

Sadly, the industry is almost entirely price-driven. No one is prepared to look for value anymore, only price. Contractors and builders who offer more experience, faster progress, more resources, and less defects are almost immediately swept aside by another contender offering cost savings of two per cent. This has given rise to a race to the bottom where the only game in town is who can do it cheaper. This is a huge source of pressure on tenderers and inevitably drives prices below cost, or else cuts away at net margins that are so thin the project goes into loss at the first unapproved variation. Then it’s all downhill from there.

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How Crystalline Technology Shores Up Concrete Sustainability

How Crystalline Technology Shores Up Concrete Sustainability | Building Services | Scoop.it

Crystalline powders can dramatically improve concrete sustainability by enhancing performance and extending effective service life. The admixture or application of crystalline powders to either new or pre-existing concrete structures can dramatically improve their sustainability by enhancing their performance and extending their effective service life.


Farhad Nabavi, expert on the sustainability of concrete structures with Xypex Australia, points out that the sustainability of a concrete structure is inextricably related to its strength and durability.


"The sustainability of concrete structure can be defined as lifetime performance over environmental impact," said Nabavi to Sourceable. "By decreasing environmental impact and/or increasing the performance and or service life of a concrete structure, its sustainability can be increased. "Nabavi takes the example of the maintenance and repair work required for a standard structure made from concrete and the improvements to sustainability that can be achieved via enhanced durability.

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Are Robots the Future of Construction Sites?

Are Robots the Future of Construction Sites? | Building Services | Scoop.it

While prefabrication and building information modelling occupy a large part of the limelight when it comes to innovation in building and construction throughout Australia, one area which is less discussed is that of robotics and especially robots which can move about and operate in an uncontrolled environment on site.


Traditionally limited to controlled environments, a new generation of robots are coming into commercial use which can move, learn and interact with people and other machines and have dexterity and flexibility.
In the hospitality sector, robotic staff at Tokyo’s new Hen-na Hotel man the front desk, carry luggage, clean rooms and pour coffee.


In construction, a commercial version of Perth-based Fastbrick Robotics’ Hadrian robot, which can lay up to 1,000 bricks per hour and construct the entire frame of a detached house within two days, is expected in around twelve months.

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How to future-proof your home for family living

How to future-proof your home for family living | Building Services | Scoop.it

The furniture, space and storage needs of families naturally evolve over time. While it’s not practical (or financially viable) to undergo renovations every five years, implementing thoughtful design from the outset can save time, money and stress.


This concept is valuable not only to parents with young children, but also to multigenerational households with older children still living at home, or those with ageing parents wanting to spend more time with their grandchildren.


According to managing director at Allworth Homes Stephen Thompson, the main elements to consider when designing for a growing family are the bedroom sizes, bathroom access, guest bedrooms, multiple living areas and if possible, the inclusion of a granny flat.

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Senate inquiry forces construction industry overhaul

Senate inquiry forces construction industry overhaul | Building Services | Scoop.it

A SENATE inquiry that focused heavily on the collapse of Walton Constructions has recommended sweeping changes to the way one of Australia's biggest industries operates.


The 12-month inquiry into construction industry insolvency has found it is "burdened every year by nearly $3 billion in unpaid debts, including subcontractor payments, employee entitlements and tax debts averaging about $630 million a year for the past three years".  


It found progress by regulators in curbing illegal phoenix activity had been too slow and legal loopholes that allowed dishonest operators to defraud their creditors must be closed.


It recommends the legal requirement for the corporate regulator to prove an intention to defraud creditors in a phoenix operation be removed from the Corporations Act.

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Savvy moves to commercial

Savvy moves to commercial | Building Services | Scoop.it

One of Perth's most successful small builders is gearing up to move into the commercial construction space, part of a comprehensive rebrand amid slowing housing demand and a restrictive insurance regime.


The latest forecasts from the Housing Industry Association, released late last month, indicate 25,310 homes will be built in Western Australia over 2015-16, a reduction of 18.7% on the previous financial year.


In the face of those statistics, former Business News 40under40 winner Ryan Cole said his building company, Savvy Construction, was in the initial phases of developing its first commercial construction project in Joondalup, after having exlusively built houses and high-end renovations for the past five years.


Mr Cole, who was also named the best young builder in the nation by the Master Builders Association in 2013, said he had re-evaluated his business over the past 12 months to determine how he could achieve sustainable growth.

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Is Australia Building Too Few Family Friendly Homes?

Is Australia Building Too Few Family Friendly Homes? | Building Services | Scoop.it

Wind back to the mid-1980s and single detached houses accounted for more than three in four new dwellings approved for construction throughout Australia.


Today, however, and more than four in 10 approvals nationally are for semi-detached or non-detached dwellings (townhouses, units, flats and apartments). Over the past three financial years, these have accounted for more than two-thirds of housing units approved in Sydney and around 55 per cent of those for which permits have been granted in Melbourne.


According to one narrative, this is a welcome development. Under this line of thought, non-detached dwellings will grow in popularity amid a combination of shrinking family sizes and a growing proportion of households without children; a growing desire for housing within close proximity to transport links and opportunities for employment, recreation and cultural enjoyment; an increasing population of migrants who (especially many from Asia) are accustomed to apartment style complexes; downsizing amongst older households and a broader desire to limit urban sprawl.

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Reality Modelling Buildings and Cities with Smartphones

Reality Modelling Buildings and Cities with Smartphones | Building Services | Scoop.it

Costly laser scanners could soon be replaced by the ubiquitous smartphone as the most effective means of performing reality modelling of building and construction sites. According to Pascal Martinez, director of business development for Bentley Systems, the latest reality capture software can produce high-resolution 3D models of landscapes and buildings using nothing more than multiple photos shot on site.


“This new technology means that you can turn photos into any kind of 3D model or 3D mesh – you can go anywhere on-site and shoot pictures around specific parts of your project in order to transform it into a 3D model,” said Martinez. “If you want more detail and accuracy, it’s just a matter of taking more photos and getting in closer. Zoom with your feet, get closer to the object and shoot more pictures.”


This new form of context capture originally developed by Acute3D possesses a number of advantages compared to conventional laser scanning methods. Chief amongst them is the ability to use devices as cheap and commonplace as smartphones for reality modelling purposes.

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NT Emerges as a Model for Building Industry Regulation

NT Emerges as a Model for Building Industry Regulation | Building Services | Scoop.it

Proposed reforms to building industry regulation in the Northern Territory are sensible and should serve as a model for all other states to follow, a key construction industry commentator says.


Builders Collective of Australia president Phil Dwyer says proposed changes - which were outlined in a review to building contractor licensing, residential warranty insurance and payment protection for contractors and subcontractors throughout the NT - represent a comprehensive list of reforms which if adopted will deliver better and more effective outcomes for both theconstruction sector and the consumers it serves.


Describing the recommended changes as the ‘holy grail’ of industry regulation, Dwyer says the holistic nature of the proposed reforms stands in contrast to what he sees as a failed builder's warranty insurance scheme in Victoria and a messy system involving different a hodgepodge of different departments doing different things around various parts of the country.

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Effective Post-Construction Dispute Resolution Methods

Effective Post-Construction Dispute Resolution Methods | Building Services | Scoop.it

Disputes following construction unfortunately happen far too often and could be avoided with common sense and if builders always adhered to contract law.


From a client’s perspective, the builder needs to deliver on time, on budget, have no defects and present a finished job that is in accordance with the plans. It’s when this doesn’t happen, or when things have not clearly been stated in writing, that disputes can happen.


A building contract should clearly outline what has been agreed upon. When this fails and becomes a building dispute, there are a few methods to take that could help resolve the matter. Hopefully a resolution can be found without the matter ending up in court, although sometimes there is no other option.

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CO2 Reduction Program Shows Mixed Results

CO2 Reduction Program Shows Mixed Results | Building Services | Scoop.it

Worldwide, the built environment is responsible for more than 30 per cent of carbon emissions. In response, architecture is morphing from the profession that designs beautiful and compelling structures to one that designs energy-efficient structures with a low carbon footprint. However, according to one metric, progress so far has been middling.


The American Institute of Architects’ 2030 Commitment is the group’s “signature program to quantify and report the progress AIA members are making as vanguards in the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment, and ultimately help turn the tide against climate change.”


Participants in the 2030 Challenge pledge to design projects that cut on-site energy use by 60 per cent compared to baseline projects in 2014. Projects for 2015 aim to cut energy use by 70 per cent, with reductions growing through 2030, when all buildings are to be carbon neutral.

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How to Ensure Innovation and Productivity in Construction

How to Ensure Innovation and Productivity in Construction | Building Services | Scoop.it

A recent forum of construction leaders offered a series of steps toward boosting innovation and productivity in the sector.


To sustain our living standards into the future and to continue our unprecedented 23 years of continuous economic growth, the government is looking to break complacency and drive up productivity by encouraging more competition, innovation and entrepreneurship.


In a recent Construction Leaders Forum hosted by the Faculty of the Built Environment at the University of New South Wales and supported by the Australian Constructors Association and the Australian Institute of Building, 25 leaders from Australia’s largest contractors came together to share ideas around increasing innovation and productivity in the construction industry.

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Construction Prices Rise as Trade Shortages Grow

Construction Prices Rise as Trade Shortages Grow | Building Services | Scoop.it

Tender price escalation for major construction projects in Australia is set to intensify as trade shortages worsen and a booming apartment sector drives a shortage of subcontractor availability on major residential and commercial developments, a new report predicts.


In the report, quantity surveying outfit WT Partnership said activity within the construction sector was back on the rise notwithstanding the resource sector pull-back amid a strong pipeline of public sector infrastructure work and massive levels of private investment going into multi-residential developments.


According to WT, this was creating significant pressures on the availability of some trades and driving upward pressure on trade prices, with the impact spreading beyond the residential sector and into the commercial building space.“Subcontractor capacity currently absorbed in residential construction is impacting on other sectors,” the report states.

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Construction begins on Australia’s tallest building amid density concerns

Construction begins on Australia’s tallest building amid density concerns | Building Services | Scoop.it

Construction has started on the foundations of what is expected to be Australia’s tallest building and the tallest apartment block in the Southern Hemisphere.


Brookfield Multiplex has begun on-site piling on Melbourne’s newest addition to the cityscape, a 319-metre tall apartment complex in Southbank.


The Australia 108 building, designed by architects Fender Katsalidis and owned by Singaporean developed World Class Land (which is also building the Avant apartment tower in the city), will eventually house 1105 residential units over 100 levels once completed in “mid-2020”, making it the tallest apartment block in the Southern Hemisphere.

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What is the Future of Hydraulic Engineering in Buildings?

What is the Future of Hydraulic Engineering in Buildings? | Building Services | Scoop.it

In terms of building services, a number of developments are creating opportunities in hydraulic engineering. With this in mind, it is timely to pause and consider some of the ways in which the sector might change going forward and where some of the opportunities may lie.


First, building codes and standards are likely to have to change in order to adapt to advances in technology and changes in types of buildings under construction. As the volume of high rise construction grows, for example, issues emerge with regard to fluctuation of air pressures and resulting cross-contamination in terms of high rise drainage stacks. In Dubai, for example – which has more than 73 completed buildings now standing at over 200 metres in height – GHD senior hydraulic engineer Les Wilson says current building codes do not adequately address these issues.


Locally, the AS3500 standard used by engineers to estimate pipe design flows to determine necessary pipe size and upon which water utilities base estimates for water demand and use has hardly kept up with modern times. It was first introduced in 1979 and last revised in 2003, Victoria University senior engineer in water engineering Dr Anne Ng says. This means it does not account for recent improvements such as such as half flush toilets and efficient fixtures and fittings. Thus, it leads to a considerable degree of overstatement of requirements. There is also no current Australian standard covering the installation of rainwater harvesting systems and tanks despite their growing prevalence.

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