Multi-residential projects have recently been appearing across many Australian cities in record numbers, in an effort to increase density. Our cities are approaching their limits in terms of urban sprawl, and as such mid-rise construction represents a particular opportunity, when done well, to meet that demand without drastically impacting a cities’ services and infrastructure.

Nonetheless, as with all construction endeavours there are risks of overdesigning and overengineering the structural elements of mid-rise buildings. This is particularly true when architects and engineers choose to rely inflexibly on a single structural system, which can – perhaps counter intuitively – prove to be detrimental to the project’s ultimate success. While a single structural system may reduce the number of stakeholders involved in a project, it also means that you may not be taking advantage of a material’s full potential.

Steel and concrete may be incredibly effective structural solutions, but their weight can have unintended consequences. This weight can prove to be inefficient and counter-productive in the top few floors of a project, increasing the overall mass of the project and subsequently requiring deeper footings, and resulting total materials costs can be unnecessarily high.

The potential for a shift in approach lies in the ABCB’s recent change to the National Construction Code, now allowing timber construction to increase in height from 3 to 8 storeys. While this was possible before, timber construction taller than 3 storeys required a costly “alternative solution” for compliance purposes, placing it out of reach for many architects and developers.

This has opened up the opportunity to combine multiple structural solutions in order to maximise the potential of each. Combining materials such as steel and engineered timbers like Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), I-Joists, CLT, Glulams or light framing allow for faster construction times, a reduced need for skilled labour, using less material overall and reducing the depth required for footings. All in all, these methods can convert to significant cost reductions, assuming they are implemented at a suitable stage in the project.

Tilling SmartFrame understand the valuable position they occupy as a structural material provider and as the largest distributor of Engineered Wood Products (EWP), including LVL, I-Joists and specially designed timber cassette systems. However, alongside their extensive supply of EWP, Tilling also offer comprehensive design solution assistance, intended to help ensure that your next mid-rise construction project has not been overdesigned. As industry leaders in this sector, they understand the need to avoid operating within a closed loop and embrace a variety of structural systems in order to arrive the smartest, most efficient solution.

To find out more about Tilling SmartFrame and the additional questions to ask when designing and specifying for mid-rise construction, check out their most recent whitepaper here, or visit their website.