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Timber puts money back in the bank

Richard Smith

In a construction market where budgets are forever under pressure, the use of timber materials in combination with offsite construction approaches can be a genuine silver bullet for astute builders. Source: Timberbiz

Richard Smith, Associate Director of MBMpl Pty Ltd says where timber wins compared with conventional concrete and steel approaches for major projects is firstly the speed of construction.

Using a combination of prefabrication and contemporary timber materials such as cross-laminated timber, glulam and laminated veneer lumber can result in around 40% less time on site.

That means revenues coming in earlier from either rents or residential sales.

As research carried out by the Timber Development Association in conjunction with University of Technology Sydney and leading architects and engineers including Arup and AECOM has shown, there is also a vastly reduced cost in terms of project preliminaries across all major building types.

The Commercial Building Costing Cases Studies – Traditional Design versus Timber Project research showed those savings include less time needing site sheds, less time paying for traffic management, fewer trades on site, fewer truck movements and less time paying for the crane on site.

The time saving is key, Richard says.

“Speed in this day and age is important – everyone wants things faster.”

He says that projects can save between 4% and 6% on costs as an absolute minimum – and if it’s a $100 million project in Sydney for example, that’s between $4 million and $6 million saved.

“And that’s just the start of the benefits.”

The timber approach also means less waste, and has other sustainability benefits.

While waste is not factored into most construction budget calculations, it does have a cost, Mr Smith said.

Sending waste to landfill costs money, as do the labourers loading the trucks and the trucks themselves.

Where timber and prefabricated approaches are used, it is possible to achieve waste rates as low as one per cent, or even virtually zero.

Mr Smith said that once everything is weighed in, savings of around 10% to 15% and upwards are possible.

It is something he says the up-and-coming next generation of construction professionals, who value sustainability and are aware of the value of externalities will take up.

“There is a momentum shift happening,” he said.

“The more forward-looking and contemporary firms are doing well out of timber construction.”

Frame 2017 titled ‘Timber Offsite Construction’ will be held on Monday and Tuesday 19-20 June 2017 at Park Hyatt Melbourne, for details visit