Modern, Modular Building

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-By Tracey Hilderley

Many of us are familiar with the challenges of working to meet tight deadlines on a job site, needing an affordable, small-footprint building in a pinch, or even just trying to maintain a semblance of home in a remote location. Whether the issue is housing workers, installing an efficient expansion to an existing structure, or setting up a special-purpose building, the question often arises, ‘How do I get the building I want, quickly and affordably, with minimal disruption and no hassles?’ For many of us, across diverse sectors and industries, the answer is a portable or modular building.

APB Modular has been developing and producing these types of buildings for more than thirty years. We spoke with Managing Director John Hodgkinson who told us, “APB Modular was started by private individuals and was acquired by Champ Ventures five years ago. During those five years APB Modular has experienced some very strong growth and development. The base of the business was in New South Wales but has expanded significantly in Western Australia and Queensland and Anglesea.” These past five years, John says, have seen the company flourish under the leadership of CEO Neville Katz, and John himself brought over thirty years’ experience with him when he joined APB Modular two years ago, looking to get into what he sees as a growth area.

Thirty years along, the company has seen – and had a hand in – a great deal of change and innovation within the industry. “The business has moved from simply supplying small hired buildings for the commercial market;” says John, “it has moved into much more sophisticated areas like large buildings for mining camps, staff quarters, administration blocks, living quarters and bathhouses to name a few.” APB Modular performs much of the construction and installation of these buildings, which can be quite extensive projects, and also designs and constructs modular school buildings, switch rooms for remote locations, and health clinics, including Australia’s first modular IVF clinic.

“So we are continually moving the bars and we are seeing that modular construction has an edge over regular building construction as these buildings are so easily transported to their required locations,” explains John. “APB Modular is moving along quite nicely as we just built an 800 man kitchen for Rio Tinto to be located in the Northwest of Western Australia.”

While most of us may never need an 800 hundred man kitchen, for Rio Tinto’s needs the project really hit the mark. “That building was put together as a restaurant style, stainless steel complete kitchen,” says John. “It was built in our factory in Perth and then broken down into eighty four modules to be shipped to the location in the Northwest of Western Australia.”

For all of APB Modular’s offerings, the company supplies turnkey solutions, moving entire buildings in modules of 13 x 4 metres and providing a complete, comprehensive package to clients – from exacting design to site master planning and approvals, to delivery and installation including connection of all services, piers, ramps and landings. “The buildings,” John explains, “are typically built of steel, on a metal chassis base with proper thermal and fire protection insulation depending on the requirements of the building.”

Those requirements are dictated by each client’s specific needs, and APB endeavours to work with the client to see their vision realised. “We will typically work with the client to understand the scope of their vision and all facets of the client’s project, and then we have our own design and engineering staff who will pull together the design of the building in a completed format and then break it down as a kit for construction in our manufacturing facilities. We will then work right along with the client during the construction process to make sure we are meeting their requirements.

“Typically, the modular [building] is becoming more sophisticated and quite popular as complex jobs are being done more quickly and efficiently with more customisation to suit the client’s needs.” Modular buildings have also grown more sophisticated in response to more stringent government regulations and building codes. But rather than a challenge to overcome, APB Modular sees these stricter codes as a boon – as the company has always led the market in quality and innovation, having more clearly defined rules simply highlights APB’s keen attention to detail and high level of quality.

It is important to note that modular construction can actually be a very “green” way to build. APB’s buildings themselves are often recycled once they have served their initial purpose – sometimes they are sold or hired to another company, or the buildings are broken down and the materials repurposed into another structure. The sturdy materials stand up to the elements and to travel quite well, and the average life span of a modular building can easily exceed fifteen or twenty years.

Curious about the assembly process, we asked John to reveal some trade secrets. “The kits are built in the factory,” he explains, “and then transported to the site to be dropped onto concrete pads in sections as opposed to being locked into a complete concrete block.” These kits are installed very quickly so weather is not as much of a factor. “It does not take as long to get these modules up and running – sometimes construction in less than a month, less than a week in some cases – so the window of opportunity to build and complete is better than most conventional construction jobs.”

John emphasises that the company’s ability work in such efficient timeframes is due in no small part to its excellent relationships with its materials suppliers. APB Modular’s own staff members, meanwhile, make the effort to travel all over the country to visit clients and work with them closely, advising on aspects of development and marketing and providing customer service. “We are very much a team as we are a national business, and we have units in each of the States which have their own sales consultants, design engineers, manufacturing people and construction teams.” All these team members work diligently together to make APB Modular the success that it is today.

“We endeavour to work very hard to meet our customers’ requirements for their accommodation needs in whichever market,” says John. Going forward, he is keen to see increasing development of modular residential housing – a logical progression for the marketplace given how often people move about – as well as more complex building projects for the company. Never one to shy away from an interesting project or challenge, APB Modular is ready to take on living quarters for mining employees in remote locations, office complexes for construction sites, portable classrooms for educational facilities, laboratories and clean rooms, corporate boxes at sporting events… or indeed, whatever lies ahead for the future of modular building.

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

July 27, 2021, 3:14 PM AEST