Article first appeared in The Urban Developer
The adoption by Australian states and territories of the National Construction Code (NCC) 2019 will see new changes that allow buildings of all classes to be constructed with timber building systems. The changes for buildings up to 25 metres — typically 8-storeys — marks an exciting opportunity for developers looking at exploring the use of different materials in their projects. In 2016, the NCC moved into a three-year amendment cycle, which signals significant change for residential building practice. The code’s previous amendment in 2016 permitted the construction of fire-protected timber building systems to an effective height of 25 metres, typically 8-storeys, for class 2 (apartment), 3 (hotel) and 5 (office) buildings. However, from 1stMay 2019, these concessions have been extended to include all building classes.
Timber building systems — such as traditional lightweight timber framing, cross laminated timber (CLT), laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and glue laminated timber (glulam) – will be approved for use in a range of new buildings, including retail, aged care accommodation, schools, and hospitals.
Under the NCC changes, timber can be used as a deemed-to-satisfy (DTS) solution in buildings up to 25 metres. Under these amendments, developers who want to work with timber face a less time-consuming and expensive process to gain building approval, and designers now have access to more building combinations, such as mixed-use timber buildings.
The rigorous processes behind the 2019 NCC code change should instil confidence in active developers and builders in Australia that building taller in timber is possible, safe and something that developers can start implementing now instead of into the future.Using timber in built environments is quickly gaining momentum on the back of positive impacts on the health, wellbeing and productivity of occupants, similar to time spent outside in nature. Thoughtful construction can help extend people’s innate relationship with nature into the built environment where we work, rest and play.
Many countries have already taken advantage of extended timber buildings heights and created progressive and pioneering designs. Countries such as the United States, Norway and Finland all currently allow timber building structures up to 18-storeys.Responsibly sourced, certified timber is a renewable building material, making it an asset for sustainably-minded developers. As a result, materials such as CLT and LVL have become primary structural components in multi-level building construction, and these new DTS provisions are making it easier for these buildings to navigate the approvals process.
The recent changes to the NCC signal an opportunity for developers to utilise more progressive materials and incorporate sustainable designs into a new range of buildings.