Australia amends building code to allow for timber structures up to 25 metres

Australia will allow the construction of taller timber structures up to 8 storeys—or 25 metres—for residential and commercial buildings from May 1 this year.

The change in the National Construction Code (NCC) comes about after a two-year consultation and research process submitted by Forest and Wood Products Australia Limited (FWPA), the industry services body.

Before, timber construction was restricted to 3 storeys, unless an ‘alternative solution’ was designed and documented to gain approval. This is practical for some larger projects but generally too costly for smaller developments.

The new Code will create new opportunities for designers, builders, developers in Australia’s mid-rise building industry, as well as drive greater demand for both lightweight and heavy timber building systems.

New building options will include both traditional timber framing and innovative massive timber systems, such as cross laminated timber (CLT) and glulam, and require the use of appropriate layers of fire resistant materials, specified design detailing and sprinkler systems.

Preliminary economic modelling indicates potential savings in the order of 10-15% in multi–residential and commercial build costs, primarily due to shorter construction times. The modelling also suggests net benefits to the Australian economy over 10 years of approximately $103 million; comprising $98.2 million in direct construction cost savings, $3.8 million in reduced compliance costs; and $1 million in environmental benefits. Benefits to the timber industry, while dependent on the rate of uptake, are expected to be substantial, however it is anticipated that it will take 18 months to 2 years to achieve significant uptake.

Ric Sinclair, managing director of FWPA said the Code change was the biggest market opportunity for timber for the last 30 years, and comparable to the change from green hardwood framing to kiln dried softwood. The increased use of both lightweight and massive timber building systems was poised to generate increased awareness and uptake of wood and wood products, with a halo effect that could extend beyond the buildings immediately involved.

“It is an exciting time for the forest and wood products industry,” said Sinclair. “This is effectively an opportunity to explore and develop a new market – selling to a new audience of architects, designers, engineers and property developers who have been accustomed to using alternative materials in these mid-rise projects – and they may well expand beyond them as they become more familiar with the use of timber building systems.”

 

Source: FWPA/ Edited by Panels & Furniture Asia