Pushing the boundaries with innovative structures and smart construction

Monash University is at the cutting edge of research and innovation in structural design and smart construction. Within the Department of Civil Engineering a number of exciting developments are breaking boundaries and improving the way all sectors of the construction industry are operating. In particular, we have been instrumental in establishing the world’s first guideline for the design of modular structures, which was recently launched as a Handbook at Imperial College London after its showcase in PrefabAUS and the 2017 Council on Tall Building and Urban Habitat Conference in Australia.

We are also leading the way in exploring new structural materials – fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) composites – for construction. Our researchers work strongly in collaboration with industry partners to direct and develop innovative solutions that are realistic and have the potential to strongly influence future practice.

Professor Yu Bai is furthering this work within a recently awarded ARC Discovery project. This new research will establish an independent, modular FRP composite building system that is lightweight, durable and integrated with a renewable energy system. The structures will be self-sustainable and off-grid with solar panels adhered to the structure in a holistic integrated design. The impact of this research will have benefits for both industry and broader society.

These future independent house designs will have wide-reaching application in places where emergency and temporary housing is needed. They are intended to be simple and quick to construct, be strong, lightweight and corrosion-resistant. They are an adaptable alternative to current forms of temporary housing in remote areas, and can be used in response to natural disasters all the while embracing automated construction technologies.

Exploring the use of the same FRP composites in civil construction is also a strong area of research in our Department. The team has recently broken new ground in the application of FRP composites in a module-based retaining wall system (b), frame and truss assemblies in port regions (c), and timber composite poles for improved mechanical performance and termite resistance (d), amongst other applications.

It is anticipated that new markets will open up and the FRP composites industry will broaden to be an integral part of our built environment, with wide-ranging social and environmental benefits emanating from such a durable, affordable and sustainable construction system.

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