An industry-led research initiative is set to “catapult” the industry into an efficient future, targeting up to a 40 per cent reduction in project costs and delays.
Construction giant Lendlease, the University of Melbourne and the Donovan Group, along with 25 other commercial industry, university and government partners, are leading a $28 million funding bid through the Australian government Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) program.
The research initiative, dubbed Building 4.0 CRC, will leverage artificial intelligence, robotics and data science to improve inefficiencies in the design, development and assembly of buildings.
Building 4.0 is targeting a 37.5 per cent reduction in project costs through off-site manufacturing and digitisation while improving project delays by an estimated 40 per cent.
The initiative is also targeting an 80 per cent reduction in construction waste and reduce emissions by 50 per cent.
University of Melbourne professor of engineering Mark Cassidy said that the industry needs to gain a “first-mover advantage”.
“These reforms are only achievable with significant innovation and collaboration across the industry,” Cassidy said.
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The research centre will bring together experts in architecture, planning, construction, engineering, business, IT and law with the aim to transform the sector.
“We’re looking to use the latest digital technology to create high-fidelity, fully detailed, complete and absolute models of what we’re going to build, before we build it,” Lendlease digital chief executive Bill Ruh said.
“The accuracy and speed of construction will be second to none, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.”
The construction industry has the lowest productivity gains of any industry, according to consultancy firm McKinsey, which described the sector as largely “under-digitised” and ripe for disruption.
Silicon Valley start-up Katerra Inc is the largest and most well-known industry disrupter — essentially a one-stop shop for building construction, from architectural design to prefabricated construction.
Katerra has been valued at more than $4 billion, with backing from Japanese giant Softbank, which has led two financing rounds totalling more than $1.5 billion.
Closer to home, Australian start-ups Cnstrct and Matrak have secured funding in the construction tech space.
The $28 million funding bid for Building 4.0 includes industry players Lendlease, CSR, BlueScope Steel, Schiavello and the Dexus-backed Taronga Ventures and the not-for-profit Green Building Council.
Standards Australia and several state government bodies are also involved in the initial funding bid.