Will Australia build the world's first wooden city?

Posted by Design & Construct on 25-Jul-2016 19:32:41

In Engineering

American engineer William Le Baron Jenney designed the world's first skyscraper in Chicago in 1884 and provided the blueprint for city skylines all over the world. His design was to be the world's first in using steel as a structural material to incorporate an internal frame. Today's engineers are seeking new ways of building without having such an impact on the environment. This demand has resulted in the state of Queensland providing funding over a five year period for a new research centre, which is hoped to develop new timber products for buildings. The collaboration between the government, the University of Queensland and key industry players will research and find solutions to build high-rise timber structures.

Centre for future timber structures

The centre will develop engineering solutions that address the current barriers to using structural timber in the extensive medium-rise tall buildings market. Forestry Minister Leanne Donaldson said, although wood was an ideal construction material, with significant environmental and economic advantages over concrete and steel, Australian construction authorities were cautious about its use.

“I am advised one of the issues restricting the use of timber is a poor understanding of how fire risk can be minimised,” said Minister Donaldson. With this in mind a team will be assembled for the project, including; product manufacturers, fire safety engineers and structural engineers in the hope that Queensland can lead the way in an increasingly competitive market and also ensure fire safety standards are met.

The government's funding has been matched by the University of Queensland and private sector partners, timber processor Hyne Timber, global engineering firm Arup Engineering and major building company Lendlease. The Australian Research Council is also providing an additional $1.5 million to the project. “This is all about advanced innovation. The Centre is developing products using techniques from the aerospace industry to greatly improve the strength of timber products and work is under way on the use of robotic construction to dramatically increase construction speed, reduce weight and cut waste on site.

Researchers from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Forest Product Innovation team at the Salisbury research facility have been instrumental in establishing the centre of excellence and will work closely with scientists from UQ and elsewhere. “Increased acceptance of timber construction in medium to high-rise structures would be a major boon to Queensland's forest industries and that's why this project is attracting so much interest and good will,” the Minister said.

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Queensland State Government. 2016. Retrieved 19 July, 2016 from
Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2016. Retrieved 19 July, 2016 from