Timber buildings up to 25 metres tall could be a reality in Australia if a proposal under development comes to fruition, media reports say.
Architecture and Design has reported that Forest and Wood Products Australia is working with industry groups and fire engineers to include a deemed-to-satisfy requirement for the use of wood up to 25 metres, subject to the use of sprinklers for projects above three stories as well as fire resistant plasterboards on all exposed wood.
FWPA managing director Ric Sinclair says the idea is not just to increase the height up to which lightweight timber construction is allowed but also to introduce engineered timbers into the building code.
“What we want to do is take lightweight timber construction, which can be used up to three storeys for both Class 2 and Class 3 buildings, much higher, but also introduce mass timber construction like Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) [into the building code],” Sinclair is quoted as saying in the report.
The latest developments come amid a growing push from within the timber industry to increase the use of engineered timber including CLT - a versatile form of panel which consists of several layers of board placed cross-wise to adjacent layers to allow for greater rigidity and strength – on multi-storey buildings.
Already, CLT has been used on Lend Lease’s Forté building, which is considered the largest residential timber building in the world, and has been shown by tests in Canada to be capable of achieving fire resistance of close to three hours depending on thickness and load conditions.
The changes also come as the Australian Building Codes Board is trying to simplify and reduce the level of regulation in the NCC.
If approved, Sinclair says the changes would reduce construction costs of tall timber buildings, which in turn would make timber accessible as an option to second and third tier developers.
He says the team is has been testing ‘what if’ scenarios to ensure people could still exit the building safely if the sprinklers failed or the fire brigade was delayed, and was talking with government representatives and industry groups in order to ascertain and address any concerns among stakeholders.
If the proposal is ready by the due date (February 1, 2015) and subsequently approved, the new rules will be implemented in 2016.