A unique student housing project is taking shape at the University of Tasmania, with offsite fabrication processes supported by design inputs from the University’s School of Architecture.

The $16 million Inveresk project involves the prefabrication of 120 student apartments, which will then be craned into the project site. The University of Tasmania recently conducted a tour of the ‘production line’ where the apartments were being prefabricated.

University Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Mike Calford observed that it was particularly gratifying to see the project take shape, given the high level of University involvement in its design and development. The Inveresk project has contributions from the University’s senior architecture academics as part of the design team while alumni are directly involved in the production and testing of the early prototype.

Calford explains that the design uses an innovative approach in which the individual units are fully prefabricated with timber framing and subsequently trucked to the site. The prefabricated approach not only addresses the constraints of the site but will also ensure a faster and lighter overall build, compared to conventional materials such as steel and concrete.

Inveresk is home to the University’s School of Architecture and specialist research organisations such as the Centre for Sustainable Architecture with Wood (CSAW), which took a leading role in the development of the prefabrication system.

The Inveresk apartments have been funded under the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS), which will deliver a total of 770 apartments at a cost of $120 million. The program includes apartments at Newnham and Inveresk in Launceston, West Park in Burnie and Melville Street in Hobart.

According to Calford, the student apartments project was accelerated by the State Government’s financial backing for the concept in this year’s State Budget along with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the State, the Launceston City Council, TasTAFE and the University to partner together to transform Launceston’s CBD and greatly improve educational opportunities in the North.

Of the proposed 120 apartments, 30 units are currently in place. The timber architecture project is expected to be completed for occupation in early 2016.