Why Pre-Fab?


Why Atomic6 Chose Modular

The idea behind modular initially came for properties in remote locations, so a building would be built in a factory and transported to site for a quick assembly.

Modular then became more of an interesting proposition for the speed of assembly, which would be of great interest to developers and most home owners. Having a building built in a factory at the same time as the footings getting done on site is a great way to be efficient with time. A house built in a factory environment theoretically would be a better house as done in a more precise environment.


At a quick glance modular seems great. However, investigation into many different providers, the same issues arise in terms of their capabilities:

  • More suited to single story (double story requires craneage, the weight and construction methods of these traditional modules make it very complex to crane into position).

  • More suited to vacant larger blocks of land (due to placement direct from a truck).

  • Road rules in terms of maximum widths and heights restrict a building where their current properties are harder to cut into separate sections and retain span loadings etc.

  • Sag in ceilings with traditional construction methods make connecting modules mid-ceiling unrealistic.

  • Lifting modules needs to be done from underneath via a steel chassis which are thick and heavy.

  • Still built in factories using normal trades – often in yards where the building is in a set location.

These points relate only to local modular / prefab companies, exploration into overseas (Chinese) manufacturers found additional issues such as:

  • Compliance of:

    • Trades (electrical and plumbing in particular)

    • Wall cladding systems (very important in Victoria and Australia)

  • Permits / inspections – very hard to get a local building surveyor to firstly be interested in this option, but then to have the regulations to allow them so to approve the inspection process.

  • Shipping regulations – sizes allowed on ships to be considered (generally) standard are quite tight. 3.5m x 12.0m is really the max size which is a significant disadvantage to local road laws only.

  • Shipping Costs - the cost is one major issue for overseas modular. Sea freight is very expensive for these size modules, however once landed in Australia they then also need to be shipped from the docs which essentially doubles the shipping costs.

The issues associated with current modular for mediocre construction is acceptable and has been proven to be satisfactory. However, property developers will find it very hard to benefit from modular or pre-fab due to one critical issue; WEIGHT.


The only solution to craning a module any distance (30m for a typical unit development) was stronger construction techniques such as concrete or steel floors and ceilings (traditional timber would not work as not sturdy enough). Current company average module is around 20 tonne using traditional construction methods.


The method with steel and concrete is strong and relative cheap, however at around 35 tonne. To crane 35 tonne into position is OK if the position is only 10m away. However, for most unit / apartment developments it would need to be craned 30m or more away from the central crane point – with 35+ tonne this is a very unrealistic task for most inner-city lots (crane required is massive).


So, this is the ‘deal breaker’. The sheer weight of these modules (amongst other issues) simply illustrated the limitations to current (quality) modular.


Issues With Current Modular

The 'Deal Breaker'


The Solution

What is stronger the steel / concrete yet much lighter? – carbon fiber.


Carbon fiber used in a composite form with a carefully selected system of composites in a sandwich panels are extremely light and strong. However this is only the start of the advantages. These methods also have great water resistance, fire resistance, thermal and acoustic properties.


A sandwich panel is several layers of carbon fiber (or other material) with a foam or honeycomb or similar core with layers of carbon fiber on the other outside skin to complete the sandwich.

This solution was not just for strength anymore, as there is no question of the strength once the composition of materials and layers are calculated properly, but what we have now is ONE panel / system that combines ALL the following requirements for traditional construction:

  • Timber framing (plus carpenters)

  • Bracing

  • Sisolation (carbon with resin is water tight)

  • Insulation (foam or honeycomb in a sandwich system has better thermal properties than current traditional methods)

  • Plaster (carbon from a mould is perfectly straight and can be painted with normal ‘rolled’ systems so it presents the same way as current plaster and paint methods).


So even though carbon fiber is significantly more expensive, the reduced number of process and reduced labour makes the system competitive with cost.


The outcome is an extremely light (for cranage requirements only), extremely strong, high thermal and acoustic properties in a system where it will not crack or leak in the future.


Think of an ‘Esky’ with cutouts for windows and doors. Very efficient in its nature


Better yet, this system is constructed like a monocoque meaning through bonding of like materials, the result is something that is like one piece (not many dissimilar materials joined together with nails or screws etc – each with different expansion properties and longevity).