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entrepreneurs, to work on their research or ideas.
“Lots of really nice detailed work there that demonstrates in part confidence coming from European assemblers because a lot of that was manufactured in Europe,” Mr Nolan said of Macquarie University’s building.
“I understand that certain components were made in Australia. The amount of detail in that building demonstrates the change that’s occurring in the building and building procurement process that computers and computer aided design and routers are making and continue to give us into the future.”
The roof elements were off-site manufactured in 22 separate glulam/CLT roof cassettes and incorporates cutting edge of timber technology available in Australia, using innovative
construction techniques to allow for rapid construction required to meet the tight budget and timeline.
Other significant winners…
Dynamics in Impermanence, a structure produced for an exhibition which is a freestanding pavilion made from birch plywood, each half a flexible continuous sheet of plywood measuring 2400mm x 7800mm cut to pattern, won the Excellence in Timber Design Standalone Structure.
This is precisely the type of cuttingedge design that has been enabled through the use of new technologies and machinery.
“At the moment, you can 3D model things and take the information from that 3D model and drive that straight to a router. That router will cut out things you couldn’t afford to make on an individual basis. That impediment to customization and unique products ends, or drops down substantially,” Mr Nolan said.
“If you look at the folded plywood routed sheet that won the award it was effectively a young designer using the same techniques in an ethereal piece. That all comes from the capacity to model things in three dimensions and then drive them straight out through a router.”
ETZ Townhouses won the Excellence in Timber Design Multi Residential and Excellence in Timber Design Timber Cladding.
“If you look at that one, as far as we could tell from the entry information it was a timber framed set of townhouse with a lot of vertical linings on it,” Mr Nolan said.
“It was a very nice, clean design exercise; skilled people using the material well, coming up with a very interesting design. Then you also saw some really good colour pallet solutions.”
Bendigo Hospital won its Excellence in Timber Design Interior Fitout – Commercial and Mr Nolan would like to see a lot more timber used in a health setting
“Wood to make people feel comfortable in a health setting: there’s lots of opportunities in Australia to use wood as a calming agent,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of medical facilities that could benefit; they’re a little medical, sterile, the bland the vinyl up the wall.
“Lead by the people who have to maintain the building, there’s a lot of attention to be put into to making the areas far more comfortable and relaxing. The start of that change can be seen in the regional centre in the awards.”
The regional centre he is describing was the winner of Excellence in
Timber Design Landscape – the Northern Goldfields Regional Office and Administration Building in WA designed by Donovan Payne Architect. A multi-use building that encompassed child protection, health care, an art gallery and function rooms all set in the very hot sun of the outback. It was the outside courtyard space that captured the attention of the judges with a screened timber perforated lattice, timber deck and framing with natural light and shade.
And the other winners were…
“With a number of the other projects, you can’t zero in on one, with them you see a series of good design principles being employed with wood as components and many of them are houses,” Mr Nolan said.
“That’s one thing about wood going into competitions. They use it in innovative ways in an Australian
context. They were individual design pieces by sole or small scale practitioners using materials in a really sensitive manner in quite limited scale buildings.”
Excellence Residential Munro Ocean in Class Beach Timber 1 – House New Design Buildings
Excellence Residential in Class Timber 1 – Alternation Design or Addition Victoria Gardens House
Excellence in Timber Design Interior Fitout – Residential Fish Creek House
Excellence in Timber Design Furniture and Joinery – Conus Lighting Range
Excellence in Timber Design Rising Star – Munro Ocean Beach House by jay Earles
Excellence in Timber Design Small Budget - Henry Street House
Excellence in the use of Timber Products Australian Certified Timber – Charlotte Chapel
Excellence in the use of Timber Products Recycled Timber – Court House
Excellence in the use of Timber Products Timber Flooring – Aquas Perma Solar Firma
Excellence in the use of Timber Products Timber Veneers – 12-Micron
Structure Is the Architecture Barangroo’s master plan
The whole of the Barangroo area had a master plan with towers in the middle and lower height buildings against the harbour, on the outskirts which is where International
House has been built. The master plan stipulated seven storeys for International House.
“It would have been nice if it had been a bit taller,” said Jonathon Evans, director Tzannes Architects. “It was to create a threshold into the place
... when you approach from the city. So, this is the first building you come to ... we called it the front door to Barangaroo, the welcome mat.
“What you want at the front door is a bit more warmth.
“We also looked at the marine heritage of the site - it was a container ship facility – going back to the early 1900s. It was more wharfs, piers and that sort of stuff and all of those were actually made of timber like structural timber.”
That harbour space used timber as a structural material though as Mr Evans said, in the past 100 years we’ve taken to using it as just a decorative material like a veneer, a type of wallpaper that we cover concrete with, it’s just used as decoration. Not anymore.
Mr Evans said they decided to go back to a time when it was structural. Underneath International house is a
three storey car park but when they were removing the concrete slab and excavating the site they found some of the old timber piers. They had been there for a hundred years.
“They took that concrete slab off and started excavating - all of those timber piers were still in the ground underneath the concrete so when they were excavating they were pulling out these 100-year-old piers, posts and columns that were in the ground,” he said. “So they had got pretty weathered so we said we could we use them our timber building.
“We milled them all up and they came up as beautiful - it’s Australian hardwood so it’s hard as a rock and being in the ground made them nicely seasoned. We used that in the building as well ... we thought that was nice continuity of the marine heritage of the site. Not many people know that.”
But the fact that there was a master plan is only part of the reason that International House is the awardwinning building that it is. There’s so much more to it including architect Evans.
Evan’s tree change
At the beginning, it was assumed that this building was going to be a concrete structure however, Mr Evans was searching for inspiration in his career when he decided after 20 years as an architect he would go back to university.
“I went back to university and did a Masters degree in sustainable design not really knowing what I wanted to research but knowing we could do better,” he said. “It was just the norm using concrete and steel and using timber as veneer.
“When I was back at uni the idea of mass timber construction was discussed and presented so I looked into that a bit more, investigated it to find out if it was sustainable. If it was applicable to the built environment, because it hadn’t been done before there was a lot of apprehension.
The concern was whether it would make a nice office building because as he said these sorts of buildings are seen as a bit arty, a bit creative, a bit weird and while architects like them ... it was seen as an unusual fringe kind of approach to build in timber for a commercial environment.
This was especially so in Barangroo as this was for A grade commercial tenants and Lendlease would be trying to attract the best in town. It was difficult to know whether this aesthetic would be attractive to them. Note that the building was tenanted within a very short space of time by Global advisory firm Accentur.
The point of difference worked
“There’s a lot of office space down at Barangaroo, thousands of square metres in the towers so we were wondering how we could create a point of difference from all that, how we could stand out from the crowd,” said Mr Evans. “It’s only a modest little building it’s only seven storeys high compared with 50 storeys or whatever the towers are. It’s a small little building so how could we stand out from the crowd.”
Timber was the standout but it wasn’t the only one.
Without any doubt the building has sustainability credentials stamped into it and that was a very important feature for Mr Evans. He was searching through his studies to address that as buildings have a huge carbon footprint and a big impact on climate change.
“We wanted to explore better ways of building our cities more sustainable and using a material that was more renewable it’s probably only the structural material we have that is renewable,” he said.
It was the start of a journey for him, a real journey as he went on a tour organised by WoodSolutions exploring CLT and Glulam.
“It is used more in Europe and Austria that’s where CLT was invented in the 1990s they came out with this idea of using mass timber. They are high value building products,” Mr Evans said.
“I went on trip with WoodSolutions to Europe to the factories, to the forests, to the CNC mills. I followed it all the way through from the logs to the finished product. It demonstrated to me that it was applicable, it had a lot of benefits not only sustainability but prefabrication benefits.”
All the CLT and Glulam for International House was sourced from Austria because of the volume. Australia doesn’t have a supplier yet, though Xlam is close. New Zealand has a supplier (again Xlam) but according to Mr Evans it’s a typical Kiwi set up which makes very beautiful product but it is handmade and low volume. Austria is high volume and builds CLT and Glulam for use all around the world.
“All of it came in shipping containers which changed the program completely, with a concrete building you’re still drawing while they’re pouring the concrete. In this case, you have to get all of the drawings done a month in advance of the construction onsite,” said Mr Evans.
“Not only that but every piece had to be exactly designed and detailed so that when it arrived onsite it could be slotted right into place. And then the services could feed into the structure. We took the option to not have any lining inside the building so again it’s a sustainability principle not having layers.”
International House is the first of its kind in Australia and Lendlease wanted to build it themselves, they have a development arm and a construction arm.
“About four years before, when we converted the building from concrete to timber they saw the benefits for the future, not just this building but many more buildings so they started employing timber specialists from Europe and brought them over,” Mr Evans said.
These were timber engineers who had worked in the UK, and Lendlease set up
“We knew it would get a lot of international mentions because it really is the first of its kind where timber is the structure.”
its own company here called DesignMake. Lendlease saw the future of timber construction they invested heavily into that future. They’re trying to do more to build up their knowledge.
Whether on purpose or as a result of the fame of International House, Lendlease found that they were on a roll and they are planning on building another similar building to International House right next door. It will be a similar height structure because of the constraints of the master plan but about 50% bigger.
They expect to build it in less time because now they have the processes in place. As Mr Evans says they have all learnt to do it better, faster and smarter. Even so International House took one month less to build than a similar concrete structure. He said if they were to build it again now with the knowledge and expertise they have gathered, it would be three months quicker. That’s a significant cost saving.
There are usually trade-offs, so building it faster meant it was more intensive.
“It’s a much more intensive process because everything had to be perfect when in a concrete building during construction there are lots of RFIs requests for information – change made on the run,” said Mr Evans. This is a more precise process.
“Precise is a very good word for it, which also means there’s less waste - less time wasted and less material wasted,” he said.
“Every part, every cable, every beam, every stair - everything was put into position. The whole building was fully detailed in CAD format. It does take more time and effort but it results in a faster, cleaner, less problematic construction.
“Another benefit of timber is the whole prefabrication process ... the Ikea analogy when you open the flat pack obviously someone has thought about how it goes together, how the connections work.”
International House had all its connections in place, it all had to get craned up into the building.
“Your crane time has to be minimized, it’s one thing craning it up but how quickly can the crane release the load and go back to get the next thing,” Mr Evans explained. “Put the beam in and do up bolts that are already pre-fitted to the beam then you do up the nuts and then the crane can go back and get the next one.”
Interest in International House has been enormous and it has reached far and wide.
“We knew it would get a lot of international mentions because it really is the first of its kind where timber is the structure,” Mr Evans said. “There’s quite a lot of timber apartment buildings all around the world ... but to get the fire rating they still cover them in material ... you don’t retain the aesthetic.
“In commercial buildings you need big open spaces, floor to ceiling glass, high heights in the ceilings, which is a different psychology to housing.
“We used the timber itself to do the fire rating of the structure which meant we could reveal all of the timber inside rather than covering it up with fire rated material. Nowhere in the world have we seen where that has happened.
“We knew that would attract a lot of attention ... it’s a new way to use timber but not just using its sustainability or prefabrication but also using it for its authenticity because the structure is the architecture.”
Clients are lining up now to tenant such a building. We’re going to be seeing a lot more of these in Australia.
■ The winners take centre stage.
■ TDA winner International House. Pic Jon Evans