The popularity of pre-fabricated bathroom pods is on the rise in multi-residential and commercial applications. And while offshore-built pods may cause concern within the industry, one Australian manufacturer is offering a total WaterMark certification on all its products.
Prefab-AUS, the peak organisation for the pre-fabricated market expects the sector will account for 10% of the overall market by 2020. That’s good news for the local pod fabricators but it is also attracting offshore competition, aided by developers and builders taking up the opportunity to deal direct at foreign labour rates.
On one hand a key benefit being promoted by the local sector is quality control but when a completed unit is coming out of China, there is rightful concern about quality and defects being raised. The local contracting industry also has concerns about the loss of onsite jobs to the factory built sector.
As a means of distancing its brand from imports and other local competitors, NSW-based Interpod has gained WaterMark Certification for its completed bathroom pod solutions.
For many plumbers and others across the plumbing industry, the ability to WaterMark a complete bathroom installation might come as news as the common market view is that a WaterMark applies to an individual product.
Plumbing Connection spoke to Interpod business development manager Stuart Light to update us on the growth of the local pod market and the dynamics of the business model.
“Interpod bathrooms are complete, prefabricated modular bathroom pods manufactured offsite ahead of, or parallel to, the onsite construction schedule. The Interpod system is designed so that when bathrooms are installed, they look and feel exactly like any other bathroom. Built in Australia by licensed Australian tradespeople to exacting standards, our bathrooms comply with all relevant Australian Standards (AS) building, plumbing, electrical and waterproofing codes,” says Interpod business development manager Stuart Light.
Interpod bathrooms can be used anywhere where repetitious design makes offsite manufacturing more efficient. Projects have been completed in many sectors of construction including hotels, residential apartments, aged care developments, hospitals and accommodation for defence personnel.
“Our in-depth cost analysis has provided us with guidelines for maximising project efficiencies. Through this process we identified that, in order to achieve a benefit, projects need to have a minimum of 60 bathrooms with a ratio of at least 50 bathrooms per bathroom type (ie. if a project has 200 bathrooms, it must have a maximum of four bathroom types/layouts).
The target ratio is 100:1 or greater for maximised efficiency and bathrooms should not exceed 3.0m x 2.3m internally. We have a ‘Designing for Pods Manual’ on our website, which gives information to assist with maximising project benefits right from the design phase,” says Stuart.
Interpod bathrooms are wrapped in heat shrink wrap for protection when transporting and when exposed to the elements onsite. Transporting is generally carried out on semi-trailers or B-doubles, with deliveries to site being at pre-determined times to fit in with site programming.
Pods can then be lifted by crane or unloaded using a forklift to a materials hoist. When craning, pods are landed on a cantilever deck, and wheeled across the floor to where they are to be installed. Installation is typically carried out by the site plasterers, who install the bathrooms as part of their initial wall set-out. According to Stuart, specialised handling equipment is provided by Interpod to ensure that site time is minimised.
“On a recent project in Brisbane with over 600 bathrooms, crane cycle time was around three minutes per bathroom. Interpod’s unique lift system ensures crane time is kept to a minimum, and can reduce crane time by up to 10 minutes per bathroom when compared with other systems.”
Stuart breaks down the benefits of using pods as follows:
a, For the builder, Interpod de-risks the project, with opportunity to provide substantial savings (depending upon the site specifics) in the following areas:
Time: if bathrooms are on the critical path, this amount of time can be taken off the overall project programme. On a recent project with nearly 1,000 bathrooms, 100 bathrooms were supplied and installed per week.
Reduction in waste costs: no waste is generated from within the bathroom when pods are incorporated into the project. Traditional construction of bathrooms will cost up to $300 per bathroom in waste costs, plus the many hours of labour required for removal and placement of the waste.
Reduced site management costs: with fewer trades on site, management is simplified, and the requirement for ‘finishes foremen’ is greatly reduced.
Minimised warranty maintenance: manufactured to exacting standards, Interpod bathrooms provide a level of finish that is second to none. Call backs for: blocked floor wastes; waterproofing failures; defective workmanship, etc. are minimised or eliminated due to the structural integrity of our systems.
b. For the trades, at practical completion of the project, defect rectification required by bathroom trades is greatly reduced. This allows the trades to move on to other projects, and the overall project to be more profitable for each trade.
c. For the developer, the use of prefab bathrooms often assists with getting the project to market quickly, providing a better return on investment (ROI).
For the owner, ongoing maintenance is significantly reduced. Because the manufacture of the bathrooms takes place in a controlled factory environment, quality is inherent. QA checks are carried out at set points in production, ensuring that the risk of potential failure or defect down the track is minimised.
The aim of the WaterMark Certification Scheme is to ensure products meet AS/NZS specific specifications and standards, and to assist Australian consumers to identify quality products. In order to achieve WaterMark certification, Interpod underwent extensive onsite testing and auditing. This included working prototypes being tested in-situ to insure all installation, operation and functional standards are met.
“The use of Interpod’s WaterMark certified bathrooms provides assurance of a product that meets or exceeds every relevant Australian Standard. All pipe work, fittings and fixtures within the bathroom are installed and certified by our licensed plumbers, and covered under QA and WaterMark test procedures. The site plumber can rely on this certification ensuring that they don’t take on the risk of works inside the bathroom pod,” says Stuart.