NCC creates opportunities for mid-rise builders
Fire-protected timber construction systems can now be used up to an effective height of 25m in buildings due to changes in the 2019 National Construction Code, Volume One.
The new Classes add schools, retail premises, hospitals and aged care facilities to the previously approved multi-residential, hospitality accommodation and office buildings.
In 2016, following extensive work and a successful submission by Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA), the company behind the WoodSolutions Program, a Deemed-to-Satisfy solution was introduced to the NCC permitting, for the first time, for construction in fire-protected timber building systems to an effective height of 25m (typically eight-storeys) for Class 2, 3 and 5 buildings.
In the 2019 edition, these concessions will be extended to include all Classes of buildings, enabling the use of timber building systems in aged accommodation, schools, retail and hospitals. Timber building systems include traditional lightweight timber framing and the newer mass timber options, including cross laminated timber (CLT), laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and glue laminated timber (glulam).
FWPA National Codes and Standards manager Boris Iskra, who lead the submission process for the 2016 and the current 2019 NCC changes, said that due to the new provisions, builders and developers wanting to use timber will no longer have to undertake time-consuming and expensive ‘performance solutions’ to gain building approval, as long as their designs meet the Deemed-to-Satisfy requirements.
Another change to the Code will require all Class 2 and 3 buildings four stories or above in height, to be sprinkler protected. According to Boris Iskra, sprinkler systems will substantially enhance fire safety and the cost of putting sprinklers in will be significantly offset by greater flexibility provided by new concessions for sprinkler protected Class 2 and 3 buildings.
These new concessions include some reductions in fire resistance levels and extended travel distances which will translate to potentially improving lettable space within buildings.