The Ply's the Limit

By Brodie Blades.


There is a hint of truth in the saying ‘everything old is new again’. This year alone we’ve all endured the re-emergence of the Pokemon Go craze, glimpsed sightings of macramé as an interior trend, and watched the demand for terrace housing in Sydney and Melbourne reach whole new levels of absurdity. But it is perhaps in the field of building construction where this saying holds the most truth, as the rise of timber construction methods demonstrates how traditional and ‘archaic’ construction materials are once again making a much-needed resurgence.

Timber construction methods are obviously not new per se (think traditional wooden huts, and  colonial forts), but what is new is their application in larger and taller developments than ever before. For example, London's ‘Stadthaus’, (9 storey residential tower in the borough of Hackney) is considered the world’s pioneer timber residential tower, with load-bearing walls, floor slabs and cores all made entirely from timber. Also worth mentioning in London is the elegant ‘Oakwood Timber Tower’; a research proposal for timber construction technology in London’s Barbican consisting of 1000 new dwellings in a mixed use tower (read previous Plantastic post here).

The advantages of timber construction are numerous. For example, timber construction methods such as Compressed Laminate Timber (CLT) have excellent strength-to-weight ratios, and are quickly installed - even reducing construction times and building site employees by as much as 30% in comparison to steel and concrete methods. Timber construction methods are capable of being manufactured with millimetre accuracy, and – surprisingly – have excellent fire performance. Perhaps what's most impressive, however, is that timber is a truly sustainable construction medium that is able to be replenished indefinitely, able to ‘trap’ and store carbon, and has the ability to be recycled at the end of the structure’s life.

Closer to home, CLT methods and timber construction are not a completely new phenomenon in Australia. A stroll around Melbourne’s Docklands precinct will have you stumble across LendLease’s 10 storey (32m) ‘Forte’ development, which held the crown of world’s tallest residential timber tower until only recently. Impressively, the use of CLT in Forte reduced CO2 emissions by as much as 14,000 tonnes compared to concrete and steel (or the equivalent of 345 cars off the road)! 

LendLease's 'Forte' timber building. 

Also within Melbourne is Hayball’s majestic ‘The Dock’ library in Docklands – a sleek and welcoming hub for the broader Docklands community. 

'The Dock' Library in Melbourne's Docklands.

In Sydney, LendLease again has plans for another timber structure; this time the 6 storey ‘International House Sydney’ in the emerging Barangaroo precinct. Designed by Tzannes Associates, International House Sydney is due for completion this year at key gateway into the broader Barangaroo precinct. 

'International House Sydney' in Sydney's Barangaroo Precinct, due for completion this year.

Similarly, our friends at Aveo have recently announced a $65 million 10-storey timber constructed tower named ‘Bella Vista’ to be developed within Sydney’s Norwest Business Park ‘Circa’ precinct.

Aveo's 'Bella Vista' Retirement Development.

 With further evolutions in CLT and timber building technology, perhaps it is only a matter of time before some of our tallest developments are built more sustainably through timber methods. What has your experience with timber towers been? Have you seen any other examples of timber construction methods worth sharing?

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