Flooring cassettes are the way to go
As the housing industry in Australia adapts to changing economic conditions, builders and developers are increasingly looking to prefab solutions proven in Europe and the USA to help manage costs and quality, and to drastically cut delivery times.
Floor cassettes are emerging as an efficient way to build flooring in timber framed structures – from detached dwellings to multi-storey residential construction up to three levels and even higher.
Prefabricated floor cassettes are manufactured off-site in a controlled environment, which allows a higher degree of accuracy, consistency and quality to be achieved.
Once delivered to the site, pre-installed lifting devices and mobile cranes are used to lift the cassettes into position to create a complete working platform in a matter of hours, taking days off the construction schedule.
One recent entrant to this field is Pryda Australia, long established and well known for timber connectors and pre-fabrication systems for frame and truss manufacturing.
According to Pryda’s Business Development Manager Ella Bennett, “Pryda floor trusses are manufactured up to 10 metres long with designs including the positioning of services, wet areas, balcony set downs and coordination with the supporting structure.
“Trusses within the cassettes are designed to stringent dynamic performance criteria to eliminate ‘liveliness’ in a floor, which can lead to bounce, meaning timber cassettes offer all the benefits of reinforced concrete but at a much lighter weight.”
Ella adds that “Floor cassettes are suitable for ground floor applications in detached housing, and in upper stories they provide a working platform upon installation, minimising OH&S risks associated with working at heights.
“As cassettes form a complete working platform incorporating all ancillaries, incomplete deliveries become a thing of the past and there is minimal work required for follow-on trades”.
“We are working to create a national network of Pryda fabricators to specialise in the manufacture of floor cassettes to meet the needs of builders across the country,” Ella concludes.
Another company providing not just floor cassettes but the entire house envelope is Drouin West Timber & Truss, which offers a panelised building system proven in Europe and North America.
Drouin West Managing Director Peter Ward explains that “Prefabricated roof trusses, panelised wall frames and floor cassettes are manufactured with world class automation technology delivering better performance than conventional building methods, and reducing the time taken to reach the lock-up stage from months down to only weeks.
“We can not only provide the timber frame and floor system, but also the ply bracing and membrane, plus exterior cladding and windows all fitted prior to on-site delivery and installation.”
“This offers benefits to builders by reducing the complexity of projects, managing fewer trades, and from faster construction time which improves margins and builds competitive advantage.”
In addition to being used in detached housing construction, prefabricated floor cassettes are a key component of lightweight panelised building systems now being used in multi-residential and light commercial developments.
The number of detached dwellings built each year has remained static for some time, but medium to high density multi-residential developments are on the rise and will eventually exceed detached dwelling numbers.
Over the past few years this trend has seen commercial builders become increasingly interested in using timber frame construction systems for multi-residential buildings of up to three storeys and higher. It’s now a lower cost option compared to traditional steel and concrete.
Floor cassette systems can be designed to have excellent fire and acoustic performance, with a solid floor feel that’s similar to concrete, which overcomes a common concern that many people have had in the past.
These benefits, coupled with construction cost savings when compared to traditional materials, mean that timber frame building systems have now become a more attractive construction option to builders and developers.
Major developer Australand Property Group has led the way in building multi-apartment projects using prefabricated timber frames and floor cassettes up to five storeys high, and has proved the timber system can deliver cost savings of up to 25%.
Australand estimating manager Kase Jong explains that “Benefits and savings associated with the use of timber prefabricated technologies and building techniques are significant, allowing for greater design flexibility, ease and speed of installation, and excellent thermal and acoustic performance.
“Superior performance from Tecbeam SmartFloor cassettes supplied by Tilling Timber provided longer spans, stiffer floor plates and excellent fire and acoustic results for a better overall result.
“These new-generation prefabricated timber systems enable Australand to provide more affordable housing for the average Australian in the middle suburbs where concrete construction is not economically viable.
Kase concludes that “This approach will revolutionise the supply of medium rise apartments in the middle to outer ring suburbs as it creates a price point that people can afford to buy.”
It’s interesting that the building industry in Australia is actively looking at ways to reduce construction costs and improve housing affordability, and is finding European and North American experience to be a valid model to follow.
Combined with new products and technologies, timber and engineered wood systems incorporating floor cassettes look set to play an increasing role in construction of residential and commercial buildings into the future.
Kevin Ezard provides business communication and marketing consultancy services to the timber and wood products industry, and organises the Frame Australia Conference and Exhibition.