Australian suburban house building: industry organisation, practices and constraints - final report

Urbanisation Housing Urban planning Industries Australia
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apo-nid35897.pdf 2.01 MB

Executive summary

This report presents the outcomes of a research project conducted by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) RMIT Research Centre on the way a significant proportion of new suburban detached housing is built in Australia. The report examines the ‘volume building’ housing industry that supplies detached housing, the dominant form of contemporary new housing.

The aim of this project was to critically review the scant literature on the volume housing construction industry in Australia and to undertake qualitative research and modelling to explore issues of innovation and practice. The research explored the characteristics of this industry, including the context within which average construction times for new housing have lengthened over the previous decade.

There is limited research on volume housing construction in Australia, and this report provides a much needed insight into the industry and the difficulties it faces in delivering housing through economic cycles of fluctuating demand. It provides the basis for ongoing research in a context where questions of industry responsiveness, housing affordability and prospects for industry innovation are pressing.

Interim findings were presented in the Positioning Paper Australian suburban house building: industry organisation, practices and constraints. The paper outlined the way that house building was organised and presented an analysis of the industry within which there are increasing construction times. It described the organisation of house building based on three types of contracts: supply contracting; supply and install contracting; and labour subcontracting. Each house is built through the careful sequencing of contractors and subcontractors who provide products and services. Three features of the industry were identified that are associated with increasing construction times: changes in dwelling design and the increase in diversity of design options; the capacity and performance of supervisors as organisers; and problems with the quality of on-site work.

This report extends the analysis of suburban house building presented in the Positioning Paper by examining house building as a production process consisting of sequenced activities. Supervisors, the front line of volume house building companies, organise multiple, sequenced discrete activities for multiple houses at the same time to deliver housing. All supervisors draw on the same pool of subcontractors, contractors and supply and install contractors, hence the need to transcend house-by-house analysis and see house building as a production process.


Authored by Tony Dalton, Joe Hurley, Ehsan Gharaie, Ron Wakefield, and Ralph Horne.

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