West Australians are likely to see a lot more diversity in their housing product emerging over the coming years with findings from a recent report by the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA WA) revealing that there are long term economic benefits to increasing the use of ‘modern methods’ of housing construction in the Perth market.

The report outlines a cost benefit analysis undertaken by Ernst and Young (EY) of modern methods of construction compared with double brick construction.

“The report found that in the current market, the upfront financial costs of building with modern methods can be marginally higher than double brick, however these costs are offset by economic savings in relation to the value of additional space that can be created and the significant reduction in construction timeframes ,” UDIA WA CEO Tanya Steinbeck said.

“The report also suggests that as the market for modern methods of construction grows, we are likely to see costs come down by as much as 10% over the next five years,” Ms Steinbeck said.

‘Modern methods of construction’ refers primarily to the use of timber or steel frame with cladding as opposed to the traditional double brick construction which is the dominant product we tend to see across WA.

“WA is quite unique in that we have stuck with the traditional brick build over many years while our counterparts on the east coast and indeed globally have been much quicker to adopt more modern methods of construction,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“It is not unusual in other parts of the world to see the majority of homes built with frame construction,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“This is because over the years in WA we have had no shortage of flat, sandy lots to choose from that are ideal for brick builds,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“However, times are changing and much of the ‘easy’ land has been developed here in Perth.”
UDIA WA is keen to see a greater diversity of materials used in the construction of new homes in WA.

“Modern methods of construction allow for building on more uneven or unstable terrain without the high costs of footings and concrete slabs required for a double brick build,” Ms Steinbeck said. “That is where modern methods really come into their own.”

Interestingly, the report found that while costs of construction using modern methods could be cheaper than double brick in many cases, the lower costs are not translating through to the consumer.

“Some builders and developers are factoring in a margin of perceived risk in their costings when considering alternative methods because there is a perception that the market in WA is not ready for a different type of product,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“We are confident that over time, as buyer awareness grows about the different types of materials available, the costs will come down further,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“Brick homes are likely to remain a popular choice for many buyers over the coming years in WA,” Ms Steinbeck said. “What we would like to see is that buyers have a greater choice of construction materials when building their new homes to address their own individual needs, budget and preferences.”

The report offers a range of recommendations to Government for encouraging an increase in the number of alternative builds in the market, including the use of more innovative materials in State Government projects; greater investment in timber industries in WA; tax concessions for alternative builds; and incentives for builds that create less waste.

“I think particularly our younger generation are keen to embrace innovation and the different types of homes that can be delivered using modern methods of construction,” Ms Steinbeck said.