The future of timber building construction will be one of the topics of discussion at the upcoming Frame Australia 2014 conference and exhibition.

Europe and North America have been extensively using prefabricated and panelised timber construction for many years, with advances made in creating efficient and cost effective residential dwellings and multi-storey buildings.

Prefabricated wood panel systems are now becoming the preferred building material in residential construction with the all timber 10 storey ‘Forte’ by developer Lend Lease in Melbourne’s Docklands beginning the trend in Australia.

This emerging revolution in construction will be extensively discussed at the Frame Australia 2014 conference and exhibition, titled ‘Prefab Timber and Engineered Wood in Building Construction’.

Pre-fabricated timber trusses and frames are commonly used for dwellings in Australia; however, complete floor cassettes and panellised walls, prefabricated and installed on site by mobile crane are also rapidly emerging.

The 10 storey Forte building in Melbourne’s Docklands is the tallest timber high rise apartment building in the world, the first 5 Star Green Star residential building in the country, and the first building in Australia using Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) panels. A relatively new product, CLT is often described as 'jumbo plywood' with cross-laminating layers of timber improving the structural properties by distributing the along-the-grain strength of wood in both directions. CLT panels can be used to form complete floors, walls and roofs.

A multi-residential 5 storey timber panel building project by developer Australand is currently well underway in the Melbourne suburb of Parkville, with more to come in future developments. This project uses prefabricated timber walls and roof, with complete cassette timber floors craned into place on each building level.

The Tilling SmartFloor cassette system used significantly in the project reduced onsite construction times with an installation rate of some 800m² per working day, resulting in an amazing four levels constructed in six weeks.

Rob De Brincat of Tilling SmartStruct said the Australand Parkville project is a testament to the advantages of prefabricated timber systems. SmartFloor is a lightweight prefabricated floor cassette system designed to allow fast and safe structural floor erection resulting in significant reduction in construction programming, and development costs.

Connector and software company Pryda Australia has also introduced a new floor cassette system utilising floor trusses that can be produced by timber truss and frame fabricators, and delivers additional time saving benefits to contractors. The cassette floor system can be fully detailed and engineered to suit the specific project and greater spans can be achieved using Pryda Span or Long Reach trusses without compromising on performance or access for services.

All these building developments have changed the landscape for future construction by saving many weeks in the time to complete, reducing on-site building costs, lowering development costs and increasing building site productivity without compromising build quality.

Frame Australia 2014 will be held at the Park Hyatt Melbourne on May 19.