Building code changes mean more sustainable apartment projects

Market Insights
5 years ago
2 minutes

Australian states and territories are officially adopting new National Construction Codes (NCC) which will allow timber building structures to be used on taller projects than they were previously.

In 2016, the NCC made amendments to permit the construction of fire-protected timber building systems but this was only for certain building classes and came with a slew of heavy restrictions. Now, these concessions will be available for all building classes, and there is more freedom for developers of mid-rise apartment projects to use timber structures in buildings up to 8-storeys (25 metres) tall.

Timber structures, such as traditional lightweight timber framing, cross-laminated timber (CLT) and laminated veneer lumber (LVL) will be approved for use in a range of new projects. The change has been welcomed by developers looking to veer away from traditional concrete structures due to timber’s sustainable and durable qualities. 

In fact, renowned developer Lendlease has committed to using timber structures in all of its development precincts across Australia. Lendlease Building Chief Executive Dale Connor has said the cost of timber buildings was on par with concrete structures but with the changes to the NCC, he believes new innovative design technologies will soon make it a cheaper option.

"We have been progressing our knowledge of timber as a product,” he said in an interview with the Australian Financial Review. 

Lendlease has produced Australia’s tallest timber engineered office tower, giving it great insights into the ways in which timber can be used moving forward. 

“We feel what timbers bring to a commercial product – for both ownership and tenant – is the way of the future. We are working out the limits to what this material can do,” he remarked.

Homes built with timber structures are more attractive to buyers. Mass timber naturally regulates humidity and reduces the risk of mould. 

Additionally, engineered timber can store carbon throughout its lifetime, so every piece used as a substitute for other materials reduces carbon emissions. And, many companies producing this product use trees from renewable forestry plantations (meaning for every tree felled, a new one is planted). So homeowners can also rest assured knowing the construction of their house has had a reduced impact on the environment.