The increasing preference for timber as a construction material instead of traditional materials such as steel and concrete will be one of the topics of discussion at the upcoming Frame Australia 2014 Conference and Exhibition.

Buildings with timber frames have been a tradition for hundreds of years, with the practice still in vogue in many European countries. In recent years the construction of multi-residential and commercial buildings in timber has become the most favoured construction system in many of these countries.

A number of factors have contributed to wider acceptance of timber as a building system beyond housing including key benefits such as speed of construction, reduced labour on-site, and improved building quality leading to lower energy consumption.

In Australia, timber panels and engineered wood systems in construction are gathering support as a more cost-effective and efficient building method instead of the traditional materials of steel and concrete.

This change in construction material will have a significant impact on buildings in the future, and is a major topic at the Frame Australia 2014 Conference and Exhibition, now in its 16th year and being held at the Park Hyatt Melbourne on May 19, in conjunction with the Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia.

Frame Australia 2014 will bring together a national gathering of delegates from both the timber and engineered wood, and building design and construction sectors.

Conference director Kevin Ezard observes that for decades the construction of detached housing in Australia has relied on timber framing with pre-fabricated roof trusses, floor trusses and walls, with a highly efficient and economical result for the builder and home owner. However, in multi-residential dwellings and commercial buildings, a construction revolution is currently underway with the use of pre-fabricated timber panels to reduce the time required on-site and lower costs, which will be explained by developers and timber system suppliers at the one-day conference.

Conference speakers include residential developer Australand, who will explain their move to timber panels for a 5-storey medium density residential development in Parkville, and how they are achieving faster construction outcomes with improved financial returns.

A presentation by WoodSolutions of interest to developers and builders will outline results from a cost comparison of traditional building materials against timber construction in commercial buildings, comprised of four buildings rigorously subjected to cost planners scrutiny with a 7-storey apartment building, a 6-storey office building, a portal frame structure and a 2-storey aged care building.

Results will show that timber panel systems are competitive in cost, with an analysis of where the main cost differences occur, and an outline of the benefits timber construction has over traditional materials.

International expert speakers from Europe, UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand will provide overviews on pre-fabricated construction trends, along with presentations on how these concepts can be applied locally to reduce building costs and generate more affordable housing.

Presentations at the one-day event will also be on timber and engineered wood products of the future, manufacturing equipment for pre-fabricated timber and panel systems, and the successful design and construction of panelised timber buildings in Australia.