The Fremantle Springs Project by a team from Western Australia’s Curtin University took out the top prize in the 2021 Fleetwood Challenge Cup.

The Fleetwood Challenge Cup is the national design competition for Architectural, Engineering and Construction Management (AEC) students with cash prizes to the value of $15,000 awarded to the winning teams. Developed by Fleetwood Australia in partnership with the peak body for Australia’s prefabricated building industry, prefabAUS, the competition seeks to address some of Australia’s most significant construction challenges.

While Deakin University’s Think Tank Project was placed second, Curtin University’s Asian Persuasion Project won the third prize. The Industry Award was awarded to yet another Curtin University team for their Project Shipping House. Three of the four finalists announced last month were from Curtin University – an outstanding achievement for the university and testament to the strength of their AEC programme.

Over 100 students participated in this year’s Challenge with competitors asked to explore the use of prefabrication in adaptive re-use within the built environment. With the pandemic forcing people to work from home, there is a glut of empty commercial premises in inner city areas. The sheer volume of vacant properties has triggered an unprecedented need for commercial buildings to be redesigned and reconfigured to meet both residential and commercial needs using adaptive re-use.

“The 2021 competitors, who are the industry’s next generation of change makers, drew great inspiration from the challenge set and delivered some outstanding solutions. It has been exciting to see great use of innovation, design knowledge and creativity to deliver cutting edge designs to support adaptable re-use of vacant building stocks,” Fleetwood Australia CEO, Bruce Nicholson commented.

“With the highest building vacancy rates worldwide following the COVID-19 peak, the need to find sustainable ways to adapt, extend and reconfigure existing buildings with prefabrication and offsite manufacturing is a critical part of the solution,” prefabAUS executive chair Damien Crough observed.

The winning entry, Fremantle Springs focused on the neglected abandonment of Western Australia’s Fremantle heritage by proposing a small-scale mixed-use development that established a connective core between Fremantle’s industrial port heritage and nature. The three-storey mixed use development’s modular design approach is self-sustainable and adapts to future styles of design by gaining flexibility in terms of attachment and detachment of lightweight cladding and structural steel framework.