Industry seeks mid-rise market solutions
Symposium calls for collaboration and cooperation
FOR MANY timber processing players the 2015 Frame topics, presentations and mix of delegates will be seen as a watershed in recognising the need for change in marketing the industry’s future.
And it has not taken long for industry leaders to pick up on the challenge and gather in Melbourne (11 August) to openly discuss market development ideas for the rapidly expanding mid-rise market for wood products and building solutions.
With the aim of commencing what will no doubt be a longer engagement process on these challenges, more than 70 manufacturing industry leaders, association management, architects, builders, developers, foresters, importers and consultants gathered at the allwood Library at the Dock, Docklands, Melbourne, to d discuss the options.
The Symposium started with Tim Woods of IndustryEdge covering market trends in multi- residential construction, which now accounts for close to 50% of all of Australia’s housing approvals.
He stressed the opportunities in the trend to urban density within larger cities and the consequent growth in midrise apartment construction. Although official data focuses on buildings of four or more storeys, many of these buildings are mid-rise or up to eight storeys and are particularly suitable for timber buildings.
“Investors are funding apartment growth but they are not the only participants. First home buyers are hanging tough in the market, but they are buying smaller residences, including apartments in mid-rise urban infill apartment blocks,” he said.
“The alterations market, from a wood perspective, will decline over time as housing investment migrates to apartments,” he added.
Ric Sinclair summarised the work and responsibilities of Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA), which is funded by levy payers including importers, and Government contributing 45% of the annual budget spend, primarily used for industry R&D and marketing.
Ric covered FWPA’s research and market development role in support of the imperative to find ways of lifting awareness of timber construction options.
He reminded the symposium that the Proposal for Code 1 (PfC) to the National Construction Code (NCC) would make it easier to build midrise buildings (up to eight storeys) out of lightweight timber members and massive timber construction, if agreed to in November this year by Australian Building Codes Board.
In informing and specifying to industry and consumers, FWPA dealt with ‘evidence based wood facts’. A recent survey indicated that 75% of consumers associate wood with the term ‘environmentally friendly’ while 36% of Australian residents had seen the FWPA sponsored ‘wood naturally better/Planet Ark’ advertisements.
Ric pointed to the need for change in building codes to grow market share with proposed new building code changes to 25 metres or eight storeys, for apartments, offices and hotels.
Timing is critical as building code changes will now only be considered every three years, the next opportunity being 2016 and then the next opportunity in 2019.
“Fire during construction on timber construction sites remains a challenge but this applies to all types of building systems,” he said.
Ric said the FWPA would continue to develop valuable working relationships such as with Planet Ark, maintain consistency and brand awareness and provide tools and guides for timber use, which must be simple.
He then introduced via Skype Canadian industry consultant Kelly McCloskey who spoke on a number of North American timber marketing models to develop new products in a phased approach to respond during residential construction downturns.
McCloskey said lessons learned included the lack of product knowledge of design companies, lack of know how in application and not being comfortable with the different product applications.
This involved risk premiums being added to client cost estimates. Benchmarking and technical transfer were vital. McCloskey said he looked for ‘wood champions’ such as schools and community centres.
“Seeing is believing, so you need demo projects, particularly with Government proposals,” he said.
Other lessons learnt from these programs showed they must have critical mass, plus engage distribution channels and do it often.
“We also found it was a matter of the projects coming first and people second; they had to appeal to all technical folks involved, but engineers were the key people,” he added.
He said the programs resulted in a timber mid-rise breakthrough in Canada and the US but emphasised expanding the wood marketing was a marathon and not a sprint.
Alastair Woodard of TPC Solutions then challenged the workshop with the need for greater collaboration across all sectors. These new building types offer a totally new market opportunity with competition being other building materials such as steel and concrete.
Mechanisms for capturing these opportunities required an industry working together, acting collectively and collaboratively, and looking for new supply chain dynamics for ‘systems based’ delivery, particularly prefabricated systems.
They also had to add value along
Co-hosts and presenters at mid-rise market symposium in Melbourne: Alastair Woodard (TPC Solutions), Tim Woods ( IndustryEdge), John Halkett (general manager Australian Timber Importers Federation), Michael Hartman (CEO ForestWorks), Rob de Fegely (national president Institute of Foresters of Australia), Ric Sinclair (managing director Forest and Wood Products Australia) and Gavin Matthews (manager processing Australian Forest Products Association).