Multi-storey timber buildings really take off

In 2013, Melbourne’s Docklands precinct witnessed the opening of Australia’s first modern high-rise building to be constructed out of engineered timber as Lend Lease opened the 10-storey Forte apartment complex built using cross laminated timber (CLT).

Last May, Sydney’s Barangaroo saw completion of the world’s largest commercial office building made out of engineered timber as the International House Sydney constructed from CLT and glue laminated timber (glulam) supported by conventional concrete at ground level opened its doors. In Brisbane, ground broke in May on another Lend Lease office tower to be built using engineered timber which when complete will rise to 52 metres.

All up, Timber Development Association NSW executive director Andrew Dunn says, the number of modern timber buildings which are equal to or greater than seven storeys in height has risen from none in 2008 to 30 (completed or under construction) now – of which Australia accounts for four. Whilst engineered timber is much talked about, opportunities also exist using traditional timber framing, which he says in Vancouver (Canada) accounts for around 70 per cent of new multi-storey buildings of up to six storeys in height.

In Australia, momentum was further aided in 2016 when for the first time, timber buildings of up to 25 metres were allowed under the National Construction Code using a deemed to satisfy solution – albeit with performance solutions being more popular with top tier players because of the flexibility these offer.

According to Eileen Newbury, national program manager for WoodSolutions and national marketing manager at Forest & Wood Products Australia, demand for timber on multi-storey buildings is being driven by several factors. Along with the environmental benefits, developers are increasingly keen on the economic benefits which timber provides in faster project delivery and construction times and lower cost. Along with the likes of Lend Lease and Australand (now Frasers – developer of the five-storey apartment complex The Green in Melbourne’s north), a number of design and engineering firms are jumping on board, she says. All this is being helped along by a growing demand for multi-residential housing as Australia’s population grows.

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