A change in Australia's building code will mean greater opportunities for use of timber and wood products in multi-storey construction, a key body associated with the country’s forestry industry says.

Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) says recent amendments to the Building Code of Australia which permit the use of fire and acoustic rated timber construction systems for three-storey Class 3 buildings will help promote more opportunities for traditional wood framing and engineered timbers in commercial and multi-residential developments.

Set to take effect in May, the amendment will affect a wide range of accommodation-related buildings including hotels, motels, hostels and residential parts of health-care facilities for staff accommodation.

University of Tasmania associate professor Gregory Nolan welcomed the changes, which he says will expand possibilities for wood-based applications in multi-storey construction.

“This welcome change in the building code to allow deemed-to-satisfy solutions will provide architects and building designers with the opportunity to use more wood and wood products,” he said. “Hopefully this is the tip of the iceberg and we can look forward to more approved applications for traditional wood framing and new engineered wood products in taller buildings.”

The changed regulations come in an environment in which innovations such as engineered timbers are driving a broadening of the applications of structural wood products in multi-storey buildings.

A form of such products referred to as cross layered timber, for example – a versatile and multi-layered panel proponents say delivers greater rigidity and strength compared with ordinary timber by placing of several layers of board cross-wise to adjacent layers – allowed Lend Lease to construct its 10-storey Forté building at Docklands in Melbourne, which the company claims is the tallest residential building made of wood anywhere in the world.

timber chart

Click to enlarge

FWPA managing director Rick Sinclair said the amendments represent a further step toward bringing Australia into line with overseas countries, many of whom allow deemed-to-satisfy timber solutions for much taller timber buildings.

“This is a positive development for all stakeholders,” he said. “Designers and builders gain a broader material palette – and the option of bringing the environmental advantages of wood to more projects, while for the timber industry its part of a market development process that will add substantial volume for Australian companies.”