Fitzpatrick + Partners are currently designing what could be Australia’s tallest timber commercial building.

To be located on Sussex Street in Sydney’s central business district, the seven storey building is in detailed design phase, with a capable and experienced team eager to see the project realised.

The timber-framed building will predominantly be constructed with glulam, or glued laminated timber, whereby pieces of timber are glued together to produce larger and longer members that can be used for structural applications.

“The beauty of timber is that we can use it in very similar ways to how we use steel,” says Fitzpatrick + Partners’ principal, Rod Pindar.

“The main structure of the building is a simple grid, [and] we have our timber columns, timber beams and timber secondaries. The façade is pinned off the timber structure, which creates a dramatic atrium space.”

A glass curtain wall on the street frontages will be bolted straight on to the supporting timber structure, protecting the timber against the weather and creating a controlled environment. This will further ensure the structure’s durability and longevity.

Pindar says the project originated as a vision Fitzpatrick + Partners had to design a multi-storey, A-grade CBD office building entirely from timber. Driven by practice principal James Fitzpatrick, the firm has dedicated significant research and development to timber applications over the last few years, including visiting timber factories, construction sites and buildings around the world.

The glulam structural frame for the building will be sourced from KLH in Austria, which also supplied the cross laminated timbers (CLT) for the 10 storey Forte in Melbourne.

Glulam is typically made from plantation soft-woods such as Spruce in Austria, or Radiata Pine in Australia and New Zealand. It originated in Germany in the early 1900’s, but was only taken up in Australia 50 years later.

Allowing larger pieces of timber to be produced than otherwise possible with traditional solid sawn timber, glulam is stronger than solid timber, and lighter but comparable in strength to steel. The laminates are dressed to exact and uniform thickness before gluing, and are clamped together under constant pressure until the glue has dried.

The layers of glue help with the protection of the timber by creating barriers that prevent moisture.

Although the engineered timber industry in Australia is only in its infancy, Fitzpatrick + Partners are hopeful that the Sussex Street project will come to fruition and be a flagship for commercial timber construction.