Push to boost prefabricated timber in Australia

An industry-led movement is underway to increase the acceptance and use of prefabricated timber building (PTB) systems for large scale projects in Australia. As part of a FWPA-funded project, researchers have been looking at the drivers for, and barriers to, the increased use of PTB systems in Class 2 to 9 commercial buildings, including apartments, hotels, offices and schools.

The benefits of the material are well-known, including a high strength-to-weight ratio, design and construction flexibility, general environmental credentials including carbon storage, and prefabrication’s suitability for use on restricted access and other difficult sites.

In addition, legislative constraints have now largely been removed, thanks to changes to the 2016 National Construction Code. Increased awareness of successful developments utilising PTB systems due to widespread media coverage and multiple award wins, coupled with the continued growth and population density of Australian cities and regional centres, means that opportunities for the material’s use will only increase.

Despite the obvious attractions, some perceived and real barriers continue to have an inhibiting effect on the uptake of PTB systems. Established conventions defaulting to steel and concrete, the need for an accessible and affordable supply chain, ensuring effective industry training, and a lack of proactive communication of the viability and benefits of timber alternatives continue to temper opportunities.

To overcome these barriers and leverage momentum, an increasing number of new PTB solutions are being developed and commercialised to compete with both traditional construction methods and increasingly sophisticated steel and concrete prefabricated solutions. Technical solutions are now being established for many of the issues associated with PTB systems which, along with continued industry education, are likely to be the key means of influencing their increased usage.

“An increase in large scale mid-rise PTBs, alongside the increasing nationalisation and internationalisation of the top tier building companies, suggests market acceptance will grow as PTB buildings increasingly become viewed as the norm,” said Ric Sinclair, Managing Director of FWPA.

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Source: FWPA

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