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Timber for Building Australia from The Tilling Group

Timber for Building Australia from The Tilling Group
Above: BVN's design uses CLT to construct two residential halls - one seven storeys and one nine - and a new five-storey teaching building in the Kambri development at ANU.

On the up - Part 3/4 - By Donyale Harrison, Timber Trader News, No. 402, January 2020
Timber is increasingly being used as a major material for mid- and high-rise buildings in Australia. We asked the experts what could speed up the transition.

A Material World

"It's fair to say that a lot of the costs of testing and information dispersal are being met by manufacturers and suppliers in the Australian market," Bylund says.

There is no 'proper' material for timber mid-rise. The majority are hybrid builds.

Along with Wesbeam and Tilling, other established companies have invested strongly in helping to grow the sector. Hyne has published BIM content - Building Information Modelling that gives accurate data and a virtual 'product' for both design and asset management models - for all its glulam products. Dindas, Hyne, Tilling and Wesbeam all provide design and engineering support for their range. And a new CLT manufacturer, CLTP Tasmania, is currently gearing up to start operations, adding to the small set of local mass timber producers.

As Ritchie says, there is no one 'proper' material for timber mid-rise. The vast majority represent hybrid technologies, with light weight or mass timber, even concrete and steel used as needed to meet design needs from site requirements to budgets. For the local industry, that means the sector is ripe for investment and growth, with many of the materials and technologies required for these builds already in place, but there are a few hurdles to clear.

Tim Rossiter is the GM of MiTek's Building Solutions Asia Pacific division. "Our parent company, MiTek US, owns USP Structural Connectors," Rossiter says. "So that gives us great insight into what is possible. I did a TDA tour with some colleagues a couple of years ago, into the Northwest of the US to investigate this new thing called multi-storey timber framing. And the biggest takeaway I had from that experience was that in the US, it isn't unusual, it's not difficult. All the problems that we raised weren't really problems at all. It's just a matter of our market getting itself to that stage."

Here, MiTek has worked with several fabrication clients on mid-rise projects. "We're in a very good position to provide solutions into that space," Rossiter says, "But we're not doing a great deal there yet."

He points to the small number of fabricators currently able to move into the space. "While there are a few in Victoria, such as TimberTruss, who are heavily involved in commercial work, the problem across much of Australia is the size of the businesses available to tap into these styles of projects. You need someone with a reasonable amount of capital and some groundswell of existing work to move into multi-storey, otherwise you're tying up your whole business in one or two projects. So, it's a bit of a chicken and egg: we need enough buildings happening that there's a market pool, and we need enough people willing to do the work that there's a supply availability. Right now we're trying to find that balance," says Rossiter.

They're not alone. "Our fabricator customers have historically been focussed on the detached home market," says Christine Briggs, national marketing manager at AKD Softwoods. "But future housing in Australia will be more about medium-density development. When it comes to the mid-rise market, the supply chain is still evolving and often new market access requires unique or different approaches."

AKD's response has been to create a series of partnerships to help their customers. "Building this joint capability means that in some instances AKD may seek to bring project opportunities to our fabricator customers and offer special support to quote these jobs," Briggs says. "Vertical extension projects are of particular interest here as we understand the need for a structural solution going up above existing developments but with a lightweight footprint. Our partnership with the WoodSolutions Mid-Rise Advisory Program is designed to help give us access to these project opportunities and better understand what the builders and developers are requiring from fabricators and installers."

Rossiter is cautious. "We have fabricators telling us they just don't have the cashflow depth. They remember Strongbuild."

Click here to continue reading, On the up - Part 4/4, or for more information, visit www.tilling.com.au.

Click here to read, On the up - Part 2/4.



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For enquires please contact Jack Haber at Tecbuild Systems on 0411 502 000

ENQUIRE HERE

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