Exciting future for timber in commercial construction
The use of timber in construction is growing in popularity and providing solutions to the challenges faced by modern builders and designers. Kevin Ezard explains.
Residential construction using timber and engineered wood building systems is rapidly becoming the future for developers and builders to meet the challenges of increased density and height of housing in the inner and middle suburbs, along with the need to lower costs to ensure project viability and housing affordability.
The nation’s leading experts in timber frame prefabrication and engineered wood construction discussed this trend at the recent Frame Australia 2015 conference and exhibition in Melbourne. Attendees to the conference were mostly architects, engineers, developers and builders along with timber and prefabrication suppliers.
The Frame conference topics were in response to the increasing demand for timber design and building in the commercial construction market, with multi-storey apartment and office buildings breaking new barriers in height and scale.
A key objective of the conference is providing a forum for broad engagement on issues relating to timber design, procurement and delivery, with major Australian construction companies there to talk about their timber projects and latest technologies being developed and utilised.
The opening presentation was delivered by Tony Arnel, Global Director Sustainability at Norman Disney & Young, and former Chair of the World Green Building Council.
“Timber is one of our most exciting materials in contemporary construction, with worldwide project teams embracing it as a renewable material and using it to build faster, cheaper and more sustainably than ever before,” Tony said.
“Timber and engineered wood buildings are around 30% lighter than the concrete and steel counterparts for lighter buildings, meaning less material required for foundations; a win for resource conservation and the bottom line.
“Engineered timber products represent a new way of thinking about the building process and have opened the construction industry to exciting possibilities when it comes to sustainability, strength and speed of construction with improved safety and productivity,” he concluded.
Currently the highest timber apartment building in the world is ‘Forte’ in Melbourne Docklands, built by Lend Lease, and a presentation by Andrew Nieland, Head of Timber Solutions Property included this and other timber buildings constructed around the world by Lend Lease.
“When you build a concrete building, you’re forming a structure, reinforcing, and pouring it. When you’re building an engineered timber structure, there’s a CNC machine creating the object, so that CAD/CAM interplay is critical, and the benefits are far greater than with conventional structures,” Andrew explained.
“In terms of the look and feel of the inside, there’s been a lot of discussion about wood and human health, and we’re seeing workplace productivity improvements from human response to being in a timber environment. Intuitively you know that when you touch timber, it’s warm to feel. Concrete and steel are cold to feel.”
Developer and builder Australand has recently completed a project ‘The Green’ in Parkville which was of great interest to delegates as the tallest lightweight timber residential building in Australia.
The project’s previous stages had been three storeys, and Australand had the desire to increase the height of the next stage to provide more apartments in a popular precinct.
Mark Paterson of Irwinconsult Engineers presented design details of the project and stated: “the design team were challenged to use the same timber materials systems and labour as the previous three storey stages, but to build the next one in five storeys.
“Australand’s previous experience in timber frame developments meant that they could deliver the building themselves, with their own construction teams and subcontractors.
“Constructing an equivalent concrete building would have required engaging external commercial contractors that would have increased their overall construction costs.
“In addition, the use of pre-fabricated timber elements resulted in faster construction by allowing immediate access for works in the levels below to commence without having to wait the usual two to three weeks for the removal of temporary propping that is common practice for a concrete building.
“The Green development clearly demonstrated the benefit of timber framing for this type of building. The reduced building materials and weights had the additional benefit of reducing loads and consequent costs on the ground floor transfer slab, the columns, and piled foundation systems.
“For Australand to be able to use the locally, commonly-available timber and materials that could be installed using existing skilled labour experienced in this type of construction, meant that Australand successfully and economically delivered the building themselves without the need for external commercial contractors,” Mark concluded.
The principal supporter of the Frame Australia conference was WoodSolutions, an industry backed resource providing access to information on timber products and technical data to assist in specification. WoodSolutions assists designers, builders and building professionals attain the benefits from building with timber and wood in residential and commercial developments.
For more information visit WoodSolutions at www.woodsolutions.com.au or Frame Australia at www.frameaustralia.com