• CONSTRUCTION PREFABRICATION 2
PROJECT MANAGERS ARE IN HIGH DEMAND IN AN INDUSTRY THAT’S SHIFTING PERCEPTIONS OF ITS PRODUCTS FROM SWEATBOXES TO STYLISH CONSTRUCTIONS
FAB PREFAB WORDS NATE COCHRANE
1 1 Harwyn pods come in four sizes, all fully installed with lights and electricity.
o see a Harwyn pod hanging from a crane, swaying centimetres from powerlines, is to know the promise and drawback of prefabricated buildings. Lee Ajzenman, owner of Core Physio + Pilates, needed an office but had limited site access; she’s on the top floor of a building under a heritage overlay with a slim balcony for her new digs. But hoisting the readymade office presented other problems, such as lifting the 1.5-tonne prefabricated pod over obstacles while controlling the street. Just to complicate matters, Ajzenman’s building obscured the crane operator’s view, with mere centimetres of clearance either way. Harwyn is at the head of a $4.6 billion a year prefabricated or offsite construction industry
that is growing at twice the rate of general construction. Its providers are stepping into the breach caused by car factory closures. For project managers, prefab cuts risk and time by shifting outside work undercover to controlled factories, eliminating delivery variables. Prefab runs from complete (readymade or ‘volumetric’) designs such as Harwyn’s, to manufactured units like bathrooms and structural insulated panels. Harwyn’s pod is a Lego-like space that is assembled and ready to lower into place with appliances and fittings—even desks and mood lights. Harwyn founder Jason Fremder is considering clicking pods together to create even more elaborate constructions. This is not like your childhood memories of sweltering in demountables, nor is it roughand-ready mine lodgings. Harwyn’s pod is more like a car with millimetre tolerances using airplane aluminium. Fremder’s start-up evolved from his own need for space when the arrival of his baby daughter evicted him from his home office. It took just 10 months to go from sketches drawn by Fremder’s business partner and father-inlaw, Melbourne architect Selwyn Blackstone, to opening their Abbotsford, Victoria, showroom. Fremder aims for similar speed in provisioning pods on customer sites by aiming for a ‘one-click’ Amazon‑like experience. “My idea of where we’ve done well is when someone goes to a friend’s place who has a Harwyn and they say, ‘I’m so lazy, I’ll just go to the website and the next day it’s in my yard’.”