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Cross-Laminated Timber is Transforming How we Build

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In recent years, architecture was defined by steel and glass. Moving forward to today, we are seeing timber not only making a comeback but pushing the limits with new advances in technology, innovation and daring new finishing methods. 

In recent news, property developer Mulpha Australia won the development approval for Sydney’s The Bond. The commercial building forms part of the $3 billion Norwest masterplan and has been designed by Fitzpatrick and Partners. Cross-laminated timber (CLT) technology will be used for the 1600m2 floorplates, walls and stairs as well as laminated timber columns and beams for the frame.

CLT is making the construction of entire buildings from timber a reality.

CLT is making the construction of entire buildings from timber a reality. The process involves layers of timber that are glued together with the grain alternating at 90-degree angles for each layer. Cross-laminating layers of wood veneer improves the structural properties of wood, it distributes along-the-grain strength in both directions, making CLT panels appropriate for floors, walls and roofs.

Jobsite ANZ asked Troy Eiken, Managing Director of Modern Methods of Construction Consulting about the benefits of building with timber. 

Leveraging the Benefits of Timber

“What is not to love about a beautiful mass timber building? Apart from the looks, construction time is reduced by up to 25 per cent compared to steel, concrete, or light wood frame counterparts. Timber also has proven fire resistance and is easily able to meet rating requirements for most building types.

“The presence of wood and other natural materials within a building has shown to reduce stress levels in building occupants. It also improves building air quality and due to the natural sequestration of carbon, offers reduced emissions during fabrication and installation.”

There are so many benefits of building with wood, including its weight advantage compared to concrete and brick, design flexibility, fast installation, and cost-effectiveness. Using timber is often a straightforward process that requires minimal working space and little drying time. As a renewable resource,  the material can be easily recycled or disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.  

Lendlease opened Australia’s largest engineered timber commercial building in Brisbane last year. Designed by Bates Smart, 25 King reaches 45 meters in height and boasts a warmer, more natural workplace environment of the future.

The structure boasts a hybrid of Glulam (glued laminated timber) and CLT elements, reflecting the company’s research into engineered timber technology to meet modern-day and future demands for function and sustainability. The departure from steel and concrete as primary structural elements results in a significantly lower carbon footprint.

The structure is raised on massive exposed-timber v-columns, with a south façade verandah of engineered timber.  

The use of exposed CLT slabs internally has removed the need for suspended ceiling systems, opening the floorplates to high ceilings softer surfaces and acoustics, and an overall warmer atmosphere. 

Where Tech and Timber Meet

The attention to sustainable principles has produced astounding savings. It enabled a 74 per cent reduction in embodied carbon, 46 per cent reduction in energy, 20 per cent weight saving compared to concrete, and a construction period of just 15 months aided by offsite prefabrication.

Lendlease currently has its sixth CLT structure in the pipeline called, “Damaru.” The name means “treehouse” in the Eora Aboriginal language of the Sydney region.

As mentioned above, Glulam and CLT both provide many advantages when compared to steel and mineral-based building materials. However, with the rapid uptake in new technology and innovations within the industry, it is likely the future of construction will be led by a number of building materials and methods each with their own strengths. 

“I believe it’s very important for some of our larger builders to start adopting modern methods of construction concepts, not just off-site construction but also introducing design and digital engineering platforms. I think the industry is starting to mature at such a rate that if they don’t start implementing such process, they will become victims of what we call the ‘blockbuster’ effect and become outdated and not compatible with the industry,“ said Eiken.

Photo courtesy of Fitzpatrick and Partners

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