Property Australia

Mid-rise timber marvels on the up and up


From schools to shops, hospitals to aged care facilities, changes to the National Construction Code create new timber opportunities for mid-rise designers, developers and builders.

“The latest iteration of the Code expands the range of buildings in which fire-protected timber construction systems can be used,” says Boris Iskra, national codes and standards manager at Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA).

In 2016, a new ‘deemed-to-satisfy’ solution permitted construction of fire-protected timber building systems to an effective height of 25 metres, or around eight storeys, for Class 2, 3 and 5 buildings.

In the 2019 edition, these concessions will be extended to include all classes of buildings, approving the use of timber building systems in aged care accommodation, schools, retail and hospitals.

“Builders and developers wanting to use timber will no longer have to undertake time-consuming and expensive ‘performance solutions’ to gain building approval, as long as their designs meet the Deemed-to-Satisfy requirements,” Iskra explains.

“In effect, it opens the door to a wide range of options and combinations. For example, designers can now create mixed use mid-rise timber buildings with residential upper levels and lower levels used for office space or retail.”

Timber building systems include traditional lightweight timber framing and the newer mass timber options, including cross laminated timber (CLT), laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and glue laminated timber (glulam).

Another change to the Code will require sprinkler protection for all Class 2 and 3 buildings that are four storeys or more in height.

”Sprinkler systems will substantially enhance fire safety and the cost of installation will be significantly offset by greater flexibility provided by new concessions for sprinkler protected Class 2 and 3 buildings,” Iskra explains.

These new concessions include some reductions in fire resistance levels and extended travel distances between fire stairways which may boost lettable space within buildings.

“A building that previously required two fire stairways may now only require one,” Iskra explains.

 “Modifications to hydrant protection may also deliver cost savings, further offsetting the additional cost of sprinkler protection.”

Iskra’s bottom line is clear. “If you have a mid-rise project in the pipeline, there’s never been a better time to consider timber.”

The WoodSolutions Mid-rise Advisory Team provides free consultancy services. Find out more.

WoodSolutions is resourced by Forest & Wood Products Australia Ltd (FWPA), a not for profit company that provides national research and development and promotional services to the Australian forest and wood products industry.