Use The Next 5 Years To Fix The Past 30 Years.

May 6, 2020
Use The Next 5 Years To Fix The Past 30 Years.

By: Simon McCarthy

Editor: Hettie Watkinson

In 2025, let’s hope we look back at 2020 as the year of change – for the better!

You see, at the start of 2020, construction methods in Australia had scarcely changed in the past 30 years. Most construction was occurring on site with trades using the same methods as … well, the last recession (1991).

Studies have shown that although building companies have become more competitive and digital technology has refined the documentation of design, the improvement in productivity by the building industry (1%) is embarrassingly low compared to the global economy (2.8%) or manufacturing industry (3.6%)1 over the same period of time.

We are already behind in producing enough housing to meet demand (Victoria’s population alone increases by more than 100,000 each year). This means we also need to keep up with the associated increase in school, health, aged care and corrections facilities – all highly suitable for modular configuration. It is a perfect time for disruption in the building industry and to invest in improving construction techniques.

To avoid falling further behind, we need to increase production of buildings over a shorter period.

We cannot afford a slow recovery like that which followed the GFC in 2009!

We have the capability to adopt Modern Methods of Construction (MMC)2 already being used effectively in other parts of the world to help us succeed, but it will require collective initiative.

  • Owners need to dictate this approach and create a rising demand for buildings to be developed in a shorter period with better quality and comparable costs to conventional construction.
  • Designers can collaborate with builders in the design process with a consistent team – start to finish.
  • Builders can acknowledge that offsite construction will provide more certainty in cost, program and quality
  • Governments  are already using permanent modular construction in the education, health and corrections sectors. The Victorian state government has set up a taskforce that will investigate planning and investment opportunities to boost Victoria’s building and development industry over the short, medium and long term.3

By improving productivity, we can get more work done! We can save time and money to use in starting up the next project and remove the superfluous building practices from the past 30 years. With the increased demand for building production, we can provide training and apprenticeship opportunities to many workers who became unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

The remainder of 2020 is a prime opportunity for the Australian construction industry to invest in Modern Methods of Construction and help return the economy to a flourishing state.


  1. “Reinventing construction: A route to higher productivity” – McKinsey Global Institute 2017.
  2. MMC – also known as offsite construction, prefabrication, modular construction,
    Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA).
  3. “New Taskforce to Bolster Building and Development Industry” – Minister for Planning Media Release, 24 April 2020.
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