Approved changes to the National Construction Code (NCC) will see timber buildings in Australia rise to far greater heights starting from May 1, 2016.

The changes to the NCC will permit the construction of Class 2, Class 3 and Class 5 timber buildings to effective heights of as high as 25 metres, which is roughly equivalent to eight storeys.

This is a marked increase compared to previous provisions, which restricted the height of timber buildings to just three storeys in the absence of “alternative solutions” that had been specially designed and documented.

The new code paves the way for the widespread use of timber construction products in Australia’s mid-rise building industry, and is expected to spur increased demand for both lightweight and heavy timber building systems.

The changes follow two years of consultation and lobbying by Forest & Wood Products Australia (FWPA) to make the NCC more favourable to the development of mid-rise timber building systems.

Timber building solutions that will be made available for use with mid-rise projects under the amended code include traditional timber framing as well as more innovative methods such as massive timber systems, cross laminated timber (CLT) and Glulam.

According to FWPA, the new code will translate into substantial cost benefits for builders due to reduced construction times, as well as broader economic and environmental benefits for Australia as a whole.

Their economic modelling forecasts savings of between 10 to 15 per cent in multi-residential and commercial build costs, which amounts to $98.2 million for the Australian economy over 10 years. The environmental benefits for Australia are expected to reach $1 million over the same period.

Ric Sinclair, FWPA managing director, said the new code would hopefully put Australia on par with the rest of the world when it came to the adoption of innovative wood-based building solutions such as massive timber systems and cross laminated timber.

“The changes to the Code not only bring Australia up to pace with much of the rest of the world, but will also deliver a wide range of benefits to local residents, property buyers, the design and construction sector and the timber industry,” he said.

“It is an exciting time for the forest and wood products industry…this is effectively an opportunity to explore and develop a new market – selling to a new audience of architects, designers, engineers and property designers who have been accustomed to using alternative materials in these mid-rise projects.”