Australians have traditionally lived in houses with brick or timber walls, built on a quarter-acre block.
The Australian home building industry has also been very traditional in its methods, producing a masonry or timber structure, tiled or iron roofed, designed around the needs of the nuclear family. A combination of rapidly changing social attitudes and values, together with rapidly developing advanced technologies means new markets for new design concepts, products and services are emerging, both in Australia and overseas.
In 2004, The Warren Centre was invited to join with the Copper Development Centre in looking ahead to the home of the future, 20 years hence, and to explore new and emerging technologies as they may affect the infrastructure and home building industries. Such technologies range widely: wireless communications and nanotechnology and modular wall panels with integrated external and internal finishes, through to all manner of controls and embedded systems.
The project which resulted from the co-operation between The Warren Centre and the Copper Development Centre produced a Technology Roadmap providing a window to the future for those involved in not only the copper industry, but in the spectrum of technology and material suppliers and designers in the home building industry.
The methodology adopted was to:
- Carry out a desktop study to ensure that such a project had not been carried out elsewhere and to access information on new and emerging technologies;
- Host a series of workshops [or roundtables]. Attendees were professionals representing a wide range of stakeholders drawn from all over Australia – including architects, engineers, developers, builders, materials equipment and technology suppliers, service utilities, sociologists, scientists, governments, media and environmentalists – more than 120 in all. A workshop was also held with students from a Sydney secondary school. Attendees were invited to express their views on the future trends of housing in Australia;
- Following collation of the information received, a series of feedback meetings was conducted in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Attendees numbered in excess of 70. Information from these meetings was taken into consideration in preparation of the project final report;
- The conduct of the project was overseen by a steering committee which included an internationally recognised Visiting Fellow.
The project identified 88 trends in housing and 157 enabling technologies which were then matched. Trends identified were ranked on market opportunity and matching enabling technologies were ranked on availability, “high“ for existing technology to “low/moderate” for those at the research stage.
The results were presented graphically, in matrix form for each characteristic, in a manner which enabled individual assessment of the value of the information to the various participants in the housing industry. In this way, a roadmap for potential development was made available over a wide range of technologies for future use in housing.
Presentation of the results was made at seminars in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
The Building Construction Technology Roadmap has had three major areas of impact in addition to the stimulation of technology suppliers in their forward market planning:
- The methodology of the study in engaging a wide range of professionals and the collation and presentation of the results has been acknowledged as being successful in covering extremely diverse trends and technologies. The methodology has been adopted in an international study and has been advocated for use in Asia.
- The Copper Development Centre, as a result of the Technology Roadmap has embarked on further projects which have resulted in an initiative to install “smart wiring “ into new homes and an ongoing study into the needs in housing for the ageing population, such as health monitoring and possibly such installations as “fall down“ alarms.
- The results of the project have confirmed concepts under development by the International Copper Association, higher-speed communication over copper, energy efficiency and improved human health. The ICA has invested in moving the data communication rate up to 100Gbps over copper wire, developing more efficient electrical and motor driven equipment, and the use of copper touch surfaces to control microbial growth, thereby decreasing the likelihood of disease transmission in healthcare facilities.
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