Meet The Expert: Michael Dolphin, Publisher

a man in a white shirt

We spoke with Built Offsite publisher Michael Dolphin on the transformative potential of modular construction, embracing technological advancements, and fostering collaborative efforts to drive meaningful change.

Modscape (MOD): Hi Michael, can you tell us about the origin story behind Built Offsite?

Michael (MI): As a publisher, you are often privy to conversations that signal change. The catalyst for Built Offsite came from publishing in the architecture space about 10 years ago. Among the discussions I was having with clients and contractors, offsite construction was a regular talking point. I saw an opportunity to align with an industry that was ripe for fundamental change.

MOD: Did you study architecture?

MI: No, but I have a life interest in it.

MOD: Where did that come from?

MI: I moved to London in my early 20s and ended up publishing for the Victoria Albert Museum. I’d always had an appreciation for design, and that translated into architecture. Organically it grew from there.

MOD: Construction was a logical next step.

MI: Yes, that’s it. It really comes down to how you interpret design elements and manufacture them in a form that aligns with changing public sentiment.

module install

MOD: What changes have you seen in Australia’s prefabrication industry since starting Built Offsite?

MI: There wasn’t a voice for modular construction, and as a publisher, if you’re first to market then you can steer the conversation. I saw a need for an industry-led initiative, which led me to establish an alliance with industry bodies like PrefabAus, Engineers Australia and National Precast, amongst others.

MOD: How do these relationships contribute to the publication?

MI: It’s about collating and sharing industry perspectives on offsite construction. From the publication’s perspective, it also adds to our credibility. As a publisher, I make every effort to ensure that what is being published is authentic, verifiable, and relevant to audiences.

MOD: How has the publication evolved since its inception?

MI: Originally, I thought we would gain traction with designers and architects. I mailed thousands of print editions every eight weeks, but found I wasn’t getting the engagement I expected. I recognised that to bring about the sort of deep change I would like to see in the construction space, I needed to speak to builders and developers. They’re the ones who decide on the construction methodology.

MOD: Is this your audience still today?

MI: Built Offsite has quite a broad palette – builders, developers, architects, engineers, and so on. That’s the intent behind the publication, to speak to key players who can affect deep changes to the way we build.

MOD: What challenges are these key players currently up against in Australia?

MI: From the builders’ perspective, it’s fundamentally altering the way they do business. They would need to move to a factory environment and forgo the way they engage with other trades. Most trades still build onsite, whereas a lot of the work can be done offsite with reduced wastage in a far more controlled and safer space. So it’s about shifting not only the build practices, but the psychology.

“There wasn’t a voice for modular construction, and as a publisher, if you’re first to market then you can steer the conversation.”

Modscape Modular Home Factory, Brooklyn Australia

MOD: What role does technology play in the future of modular construction?

MI: Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a cloud-based design file that virtually represents a completed building. Rather than having multiple or incompatible files, there’s one source of truth that your architects, engineers and construction professionals can collaborate on.

From the BIM file, you then have what’s called a digital twin, which takes all the elements from that BIM file to manufacture the building. It means you can order all the components that have been introduced to that BIM file, ahead of time. I could be a builder without even owning machinery.

MOD: How does BIM lend itself to modular construction?

MI: It’s all about accuracy. A BIM file contains all the information about the building including the plumbing, engineering, even electrical. Working this way reduces errors you may experience when you get to site.

The construction industry is such an inefficient space. It hasn’t evolved effectively in 100 years. Industrialised building processes can really address all sorts of issues, from demolition to financing, right down to the inclusion of women in the workplace. Housing is a fundamental right and anything that can be done to enable easier, more affordable access with better environmental outcomes should be considered.

MOD: Thanks for your time Michael, it’s been a pleasure.

MI: Good to talk to you too.

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For more offsite construction news and innovations, head to Built Offsite.