Melbourne Boasts World’s Tallest Wooden Building

When is a 10-storey building considered to be the tallest building in the world? When it’s made from CLT (Cross Laminated Timber), a remarkable material that could mark the dawn of a new era in the Australian construction industry.

Construction giant Lend Lease is currently building the world’s tallest Cross Laminated Timber high-rise apartment tower at Victoria Harbour in Melbourne, using a construction material that’s never been used in Australia before.

Housing 23 boutique residential apartments and four townhouses, it will offer superior energy efficiency and an abundance of natural light and ventilation, making it much sought after as investment property and by those wishing to call such a unique urban space their home.

Cross Laminated Timber is considered much more efficient and environmentally friendly than traditional construction materials. It has been used successfully for more than 10 years in Europe, although never to such heights as the Lend Lease project, named ‘Forté’ (strong point), which will be 10 storeys high.

Lend Lease claims that the project will produce 1400 tonnes less CO2-equivalent emissions than concrete and steel construction, which is the environmental equivalent of removing 345 cars from the road.

So what is CLT? Basically, it is an extension of the technology that brought us plywood; engineered wooden panels made up of laminated layers (lamellas), which, when bonded together, give it the strength of reinforced concrete.

Because the grain direction is alternated in each layer, load can be transferred in more than one direction and the effects of shrinkage and swelling experienced in normal wood are vastly reduced.

Not only is Cross Laminated Timber as strong, if not stronger, than reinforced concrete, but it is also much more environmentally friendly, with a very light carbon footprint. CLT is also:

  • 30% faster to produce, because it is made under controlled factory conditions
  • Cost-competitive in comparison with traditional construction materials
  • Much lighter and easier to erect than concrete panels
  • Fire resistant, with a burn rate of just 0.67 mm per minute
  • Noise resistant, with inherent noise absorption properties
  • Heat resistant, with excellent insulation properties.

Cross Laminated Timber was developed in Europe in the 1990s and has been a popular construction material there ever since, but only for one or two-storey buildings. Restrictions there require that wooden buildings be no more than four storeys high.

Building codes in the United Kingdom are a little more flexible and a number of CLT buildings have been constructed up to nine storeys high.

The USA has yet to adopt Cross Laminated Timber, but it is not expected to be too long before they too take up this amazing construction alternative. The main challenge is finding a sustainable supply of suitable wood.

The world’s tallest wooden building is on track for completion in October 2012 and is expected to attract a good deal of property investment interest in the meantime. After it is completed, Lend Lease has plans to incorporate CLT into a number of other construction projects.

With high-density urban living becoming increasingly popular, the timing could not be better for the adoption of cost-effective green materials and processes such as Cross Laminated Timber by the Australian construction industry.

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