Melbourne to lead new research network to address the Asia-Pacific housing crisis

By Melbourne School of Engineering

Engineers from the University of Melbourne will lead a new international research network to address the housing crisis in the Asia-Pacific region through the development of affordable and sustainable housing solutions.

The Melbourne research team and their partners in Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand and China have received Federal funding to establish an Asia–Pacific Research Network on Sustainable Materials and Prefabricated Systems for Resilient Affordable Housing (APRAH).

The funding is provided under the first round of the $3.2 million Regional Collaborations Program, which is administered by the Australian Academy of Science and is part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda. The Regional Collaborations Program is designed to build strong linkages between Australian researchers and businesses and their Asia–Pacific regional counterparts by supporting multi partner science, research and innovation collaboration activities that address issues of significance to our nation and the region.

APRAH will be headed up by Associate Professor Tuan Ngo from the Department of Infrastructure Engineering and supported by Professor Priyan Mendis and Dr David Heath.

Dean of the Melbourne School of Engineering, Professor Iven Mareels said the successful grant reflected the University’s long-term teaching and research focus on innovative construction technologies including off-site manufacturing, sustainable materials and prefabricated housing.

“Access to adequate and affordable housing is a current and growing problem in the majority of countries in Asia. An estimated 120,000 people flock to the cities in the Asia-Pacific region every day, creating a demand for 30,000-plus new dwelling units per day. Many people arrive without the resources for adequate shelter and end up living in informal settlements, or slums,” Professor Mareels said.

Professor Mareels said the region is facing a significant challenge to construct over 10 million units each year to meet the increasing demand for affordable housing.

“The rapid population growth combined with under-supply and poor quality in the current construction industry has influenced key industry players to adopt alternative building technologies. Offsite prefabricated construction through advanced manufacturing techniques can address these time, cost and quality issues,” he said.

“Enabling technologies such as composite lightweight materials and systems, automated off-site manufacturing, and mass customisation are essential components of prefabricated housing. The University of Melbourne is proud to be the leading centre in Australia and in the region in these technologies.”

Professor Ngo also welcomed the news, saying the new research network would facilitate a coordinated approach for transforming the construction industry towards low cost, more resilient and sustainable housing based on advanced manufacturing techniques.

“The network will also enhance the capabilities of the Australian prefab industry to design, engineer, assemble and deliver high quality affordable housing for both local and global markets. The network will provide multi-disciplinary research collaboration opportunities for research staff, students, industry partners and peak industry bodies across the entire Asia Pacific region”.