Construction code raises the bar
Australian developers and builders will now be able to build taller timber buildings, following approval of the Forest and Wood Products Australia’s (FWPA) proposal to the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB). Kevin Ezard explains.
The outcome is a deemed-to-satisfy requirement in the National Construction Code (NCC) for the use of timber and engineered wood up to 25m building height, about 8 storeys, which is now incorporated in the updated Code to be issued on May 1 this year.
Lightweight timber construction that is presently used up to three storeys for both Class 2 (apartment) and Class 3 buildings can now be much higher, and the code also introduces mass timber construction including Cross Laminated Timber under the deemed-to-satisfy (DTS) provisions.
This significant change brings Australia in line with other countries such as Canada, USA and Europe. It provides an opportunity for developers and builders who are currently using timber frames to consider taller buildings with the same materials and labour.
With structural, fire and acoustic design considerations to meet the changed code requirements, it opens up new markets for multi-residential construction which is currently booming, and likely to continue for some time.
This DTS solution will provide many benefits for the broader community and for the building sector, including:
– Reduced ‘alternative solution’ compliance costs for business and administrative costs for government.
– Improved building affordability as local and overseas experience has demonstrated savings due to:
– Faster construction times (structural and follow-on trades: plumbing, electrical)
– Less concrete and lower cost for foundations
– Lower crane costs (mobile cranes used)
– Fewer truck transport movements
– Reduced neighbourhood disruption
– Lower OH&S incidents and costs
– Improved environmental outcomes (carbon stored in wood products)
In addition, significant reduction in regulatory requirements, lower costs of engineering and documentation, and improved productivity through prefabricated construction of lightweight multi-residential buildings.
The timber industry is well positioned for the increase in demand, as the timber framing and components required for building up to 8 storeys is much the same as for domestic construction up to 3 storeys, and existing carpentry and building trades would still be required for prefabrication and site installation.
Coinciding with the release of the new code from May 1, the annual Frame Australia 2016 Conference and Exhibition will be held in Melbourne on May 23 with the theme “Building construction with prefabricated timber and engineered wood” which will focus on these new developments.
Speaker presentations will cover the process of timber construction including building design, engineering and codes, manufacturing and prefabrication, supply and installation on site, and will be held in parallel sessions to enable the extensive range of topics to be held in the one day program.
Topics will also include design implementation for the new increased height in timber multi-residential and commercial buildings, along with engineering solutions with timber and wood building systems, and how to achieve the benefits of faster construction.
Expert international speakers will present on new technologies in automated manufacture of roof truss and wall frame systems, and prefabrication of panellised systems for residential and commercial buildings in Australia.
Timber industry organisation WoodSolutions is the “Principal Supporter” for this year’s Frame Australia Conference, to encourage awareness of the latest developments in timber and wood construction systems.
These changes will obviously increase designer and builder interest in finding out more, and WoodSolutions is currently preparing additional Technical Guides including “Mid-rise timber buildings” to assist in providing valuable design and construction details.