This project identifies drivers for, and barriers to, the increased use of prefabricated timber building (PTB) systems in Class 2 to 9 commercial buildings, such as apartments, hotels, office buildings and schools.
PTB systems in Australia are in a formative stage and yet to achieve broad acceptance in the marketplace as a conventional method of building.
Opportunities for PTB systems can use timber’s well-established benefits such as high strength-to-weight ratio; design and construction flexibility; general environmental credentials including carbon sequestration; and prefabrication’s suitability for use on brown-field, restricted access and difficult sites and developments. In addition legislative constraints have now been largely removed (e.g. through changes to the 2016 National Construction Code).
An increase in large scale mid-rise prefabricated buildings, and with the increasing nationalisation and internationalisation of the top tier building companies, suggests market acceptance will grow as PTB buildings are seen as ‘normal’.
During the last few years, the merging of timber building tradition with the application of new
technologies has produced new prefabricated building systems in Europe and North America. Mid-rise buildings present a unique opportunity to apply new timber technologies. Chile has shown sustained growth of buildings construction during the past decades but little further
development in the use of wood. To establish the feasibility of timber systems applied to the Chilean context this research considered social aspects, technical aspects and local standards related to the manufacture and construction using timber components. A project proposal is used to analyze the architectural applications of timber systems according to the Chilean context. The design considers the case of densification in the city of Santiago and investigates the possibility of developing mid-rise structures using the structural properties and features of timber systems. So far only two systems applied to mid-rise structures have been tested for seismic resistance on full scale prototypes: Midply and Cross Laminated Timber.
Mass timber construction in Australia and New Zealand uses three main materials—laminated veneer lumber, glue laminated timber and cross-laminated timber (CLT). This article focuses on the use of mass timber in nonresidential construction—the use in single-family homes and apartments is not considered. In Australia and New Zealand, mass timber building technology has moved from being technologically possible to being a feasible alternative to reinforced concrete and steel construction. It has not taken over a large market share in either market and, as such, has not been a disruptive technology. The major changes in this market in the past 5-10 yr in Australia and New Zealand have been the development of new industrial capacity in CLT and the acquisition of computer controlled machining equipment to facilitate prefabrication of wooden building components. The development of new codes and standards and design guides is underway. The drivers of future growth in market share are expected to include more clients putting a higher weight on the various environmental benefits of building in wood, reduction in the real and perceived professional risk for builders and architects specifying mass timber construction, and fuller participation in the supply chain for timber buildings (from design to construction) by timber building specialists. Government policies to encourage the use of timber may also be helpful. Engineers and architects will continue to learn—through experience—how to optimize building construction methods to take advantage of the specific features and qualities of timber as a construction method.
Across B.C. and Canada, communities are under pressure to create better-performing buildings that meet stringent code requirements while reducing construction waste. Meanwhile, consumers are demanding high-quality structures that are delivered quickly and at a reasonable price. Modern methods of construction that include prefabrication can help construction professionals create buildings that meet all these criteria.
Furthermore, prefabrication provides steady employment and is good for the economy. The market opportunities are present across Canada and in the U.S., but prefabrication is not being used to its potential due to several barriers:
Negative perception of quality
Fear of innovation
Lack of information and understanding
Unclear economic benefits
Limited industry capacity
Planning and regulatory complications
A concerted effort to address these barriers includes:
Improving products through research and development
Researching, documenting, and promoting best practices
Developing guidance documents so prefabrication is easier to incorporate
Providing national-level leadership and resources to promote innovation
Successfully implementing these recommendations will require a broad and deep national perspective, an understanding of all stages and aspects of wood construction, and the vision and skills to bring together diverse experts and stakeholders.
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