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August, 2018|Value for Money

Breakthrough on mid-rise timber buildings

“The proposed changes to the Code will not only bring Australia up to pace with much of the rest of the world, but will deliver a wide range of benefits to local residents, property buyers and the building industry.”

Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) Managing Director. Ric Sinclair

Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) drives an industry-wide consultative project to change timber building codes, the biggest market opportunity for the wood products industry in up to 40 years.

Currently, Australian timber buildings are restricted to a three-storey height limit, under the National Construction Code’s deemed-to-satisfy (DTS) provisions, with taller buildings requiring the design and documentation of an ‘alternative solution’ to gain approval. Alternative solutions, while practical on some larger projects, are generally found to be too costly for smaller constructions.

The idea for a code change began from a discussion about the Building Code and the timber industry following a move to three-story timbers buildings. Forest and Wood Products Australia Limited (FWPA) recognised that this was positive progress but it needed to go further in order to truly benefit the industry. The key aim was to take an evidence based, consultative and inclusive approach.

Over the course of the three to four-year program, FWPA consulted with representatives from the timber, building and insurance industries, regulatory bodies and fire and emergency authorities to develop a Proposal for Change to the National Construction Code (NCC) and allow timber construction in taller structures of up to eight storeys for buildings including apartments, hotels and offices.

The code change will come into effect on 1 May 2016, and will have a significant impact on the forest and wood products sector, the construction industry and the environment.

Preliminary economic modelling indicates potential savings in the order of 10-15 per cent in multi–residential and commercial build costs, primarily due to shorter construction times. The modelling also suggests net benefits over ten years of approximately $103 million, comprising $98.2 million in direct construction cost savings, $3.8 million in reduced compliance costs; and $1 million in environmental benefits.

Additional innovative construction materials and techniques and increased market optimism would increase these national net benefits substantially.