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    It’s finally here: first Australian CLT plant to open in 2017

    Nathan Johnson

    Australia’s first cross-laminated timber (CLT) manufacturing plant will be built in the Albury Wodonga region by mid-2017.

    The facility will produce 60,000m3 of CLT each year and will be owned and operated by Xlam, a CLT company who’ve been manufacturing the building material at the their New Zealand-based plant for the past five years.

    While the announcement comes as no real surprise, it will be welcomed news for those Australians who've been considering the product but have had trouble accessing it. In an interview back in February, Rob De Brincat, Business Development Manager at Xlam Australia, did tell Architecture & Design that Xlam were planning on setting up shop in Australia to address the growing demand for CLT on our shores. But he couldn’t disclose where at the time.

    It’s still uncertain exactly where the new facility will be located, the final site will be announced in the next couple of weeks, but we now know that it will definitely be in the Albury Wodonga region.

    The news comes at a time when barriers dissuading Australian architects from using CLT are being torn down.

    In January 2016, the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) announced changes to the National Construction Code (NCC) that will enable timber buildings up to 25 metres in height to be lodged with planning under deemed-to-satisfy provisions. Before that, they were restricted to three storeys under the NCC’s deemed-to-satisfy provisions, with taller buildings requiring an ‘alternative solution’ to be designed and documented to gain building compliance.

    European CLT suppliers are also beginning to diversify and multiply their services on Australian shores, making designing with CLT a little smoother again. In the past, and to their detriment, big CLT companies such as Stora Enso and Novatop were providing not much more than sticks of timber to their customers. Now, according to Nick Hewson, Senior Structural Engineer at Aecom, they’re offering more support and guidance on how to actually design, plan and build with the material.

    “A couple of years ago there were a lot of people who could deliver timber into the country but it wasn’t enough,” he explains. 

    “We needed a much more integrated solution to compete with concrete frame contractors—they needed to supply a full system, which includes things like engineering, design input, costing and installation.”

    While there are still many barriers to using CLT, such as design inflexibility (all design issues need determining ahead of fabrication and future transformation of structure can be difficult) and costs, by mid-2017 Xlam will have alleviated at least a few more concerns for those Australians considering CLT for their next project.

    A CLT plant in Australia will shorten delivery time and distance, and reduce the embodied energy of the material. Xlam have said that their new Australian plant will manufacture CLT with Australian timber only.

    At capacity production, the new plant will produce enough CLT to build a project the size of Forte Melbourne – Australia’s largest timber apartment building  each week .

    Lend Lease are also due to open a factory in Sydney this year dedicated to manufacturing pre-fabricated building components, including cross-laminated timber (CLT) framework.

    WHAT'S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?

     

     

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