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Timber Wins: Major Changes in National Construction Code

Timber suppliers are very happy with the news that Australia has made a major change in the National Construction code. For us, it’s as if the Government finally figured out what we have known most of our lives: timber is a superior building material and is much safer for tall buildings than previously given credit for.

Beginning 1 May 2016, builders will be able to use timber for buildings up to 25 metres or approximately eight storeys. They will be required to meet a number of conditions, including fire-resistant cladding and fire sprinklers.

Who Benefits?

Obviously, this is huge for the timber industry. We will benefit because more people will be using timber. But the benefits to the timber industry are overshadowed by the benefits to builders, small developers and people looking for more affordable housing.

According to Robert Pradolin, who is the General Manager for Business Development at Frasers Property Australia, “Medium rise apartments in concrete don’t work in the suburbs because they cost so much.” He is of the belief that timber will allow builders and developers to create affordable, medium-rise apartments.

Others see the changes in the code as a step towards popularising prefabrication and modular construction, which would make the construction of dwellings much easier and faster. This, of course, would lower prices further due to the decreased amount of labour it takes to erect modular or prefabricated buildings.

Everybody we have seen quoted in various industries affected by the decision believes the use of timber will open the door towards improved innovation and entrepreneurship, affecting the housing market in a positive way.

According to Ric Sinclair, who is the Managing Director of Forest and Wood Products Australia, builders could save as much as 20% on a building when all of the savings are added in. However, he believes that it will require builders who are familiar with the process of using timber as opposed to other building materials.

Deemed to Satisfy

Under the old “deemed to satisfy” rules, load-bearing floors and walls had to be made of non-combustible materials such as concrete and steel to automatically gain approval. Those who wanted to use timber had to spend so much time and money getting approval that it limited the use of timber to large companies.

Emerging Technologies

The changes to the National Building Code allow Australia to “catch up” to a number of countries that have already relaxed rules regarding timber as a building material. The reason that timber is now deemed to be safer is because of emerging technologies in the fire prevention and construction professions.

According to Neil Savery, General Manager of the Australian Building Codes Board, the international building codes, upon which most countries base their own codes, have been “designed around fire fighting” since the Great Fire of London, over 350 years ago. It was seen that any timber construction over three storeys was risky but new construction technology has mitigated those risks.

The timber industry is looking for 5% of mid-rise apartment buildings over the next five to ten years.

The Fire Question

The concrete industry, which has the most to lose, is critical of the decision. The CEO of National Precast Concrete Association Australia, Sarah Bachmann, refuses to believe that timber buildings will be protected from fire. But Mr Sinclair noted that timber buildings will be safer because of the presence of fire sprinklers and fire-resistant plasterboard, which are currently not required in concrete buildings.

According to Mr Sinclair: “You don’t build fireproof buildings. You build buildings that are safer for the occupants to get out alive. This is about the amount of time before there’s catastrophic damage.”

Mr Sinclair believes that thermal breaks and insulation can also be used to promote fire safety in timber buildings.

Call the Best Timber Suppliers in Australia Today

At Narangba Timbers, we supply the finest timber from ethical, sustainable sources. Our customer service staff is as good as any in the industry. They are knowledgeable, approachable and highly motivated to provide you with everything you need to make every project successful.

To learn more, call us today on 1300 477 024.