TWO landmark advanced manufacturing timber buildings – one in Melbourne and the other in Bendigo – have been completed using regrowth hardwood from ASH in Heyfield. The buildings are two of the most important projects in the state’s growing use of engineered timber for construction.

Hines, a global real estate investment, development, and property manager, has completed the firm’s mass timber office building in Melbourne. Jackson Clements Burrows were the architects and ICON Contstruction was the builder.

In Bendigo, the Government Hub, which is mainly built from timber, is open for business and can house up to 1000 Victorian government and local government workers. Lyons Architecture designed the project, while ICON along with Fairbrother Construction were the builders.

Both buildings have CLT (cross-laminated timber) from Xlam Australia in Wodonga and GLT (glue-laminated timber) from ASH.

Hines’ T3 Collingwood (T3 stands for ‘timber, talent and technology’) is the tallest mass timber office building in Melbourne and is helping to drive the demand for high-quality, green office buildings.

Hines says building with timber, as opposed to concrete and steel, results in big savings in embodied carbon. The timber stores carbon dioxide sequestered by the growing tree in contrast to the vast amounts of CO2 used to produce a concrete and steel structure.

“We’re seeing a strong pivot towards ESG adherence, as well as towards core central locations, among today’s tenants both are expected to underpin growth for the prime end of the office market in Australia,” said David Warneford, country head of Australia and New Zealand at Hines.

“Demand is there, and we see good locations and premium green buildings leasing.”

Located at 36 Wellington Street in the suburb of Collingwood, the 18,200-square-metre, 15-storey timber office building adds to Hines’ global portfolio of 26 timber assets in various development stages across North America and Europe as of 2023.

“These ‘magnet buildings’ are sustainability-driven, well-located, technologically efficient, and adjacent to transit. They’re more than just office buildings. They’re places for building culture, collaboration, and community,” Mr Warneford said.

In fact, the mass engineered timber in the Bendigo building inspired Hines when it was planning Wellington. “We loved the timber; we saw what they were doing,” said Hines construction manager, Jo Lees.

The Wellington St commercial building has two levels of basement, six levels of concrete podium and nine levels of timber structure, which makes it the tallest timber structure in Australia – a mixture of certified CLT and GLT.

Ms Lees said when the timber concept was first mooted, Hines assumed it would use European spruce, but opted for ASH regrowth hardwood. Several reasons showed that Australian timber was a viable option.

“Cost – that always comes into it. The saving on shipping was a fairly high percentage of dollars,” she said.

“Time – having it local, three hours away, was a saving. All that ties into risk; it was a less risky proposition going local – there is better control over shipping, more quality control.”

ASH also knew the industry in Australia – the installers, the contractors and the delivery.

Ms Lees said ASH’s managed regrowth hardwood was a different colour, darker than European spruce and stiffer. “The stiffer timber beams and columns could be more slender, using less wood for the same structural result,” she said.

The Wellington St building has 970 cubic metres of hardwood GLT as beams and columns, and 2350 m3 in CLT made from radiata pine. About 30 per cent of the GLT volume is columns and 70 per cent beams.

“The beams and columns are all exposed – a great feature,” Ms Lees said.

ASH’s national business development manager, Daniel Wright, said unlike at Bendigo, his company was involved in design and detailing at Wellington. “How the joints and connections work – we helped with that to make sure it was cost efficient, manufactured in time and looks good,” he said. ASH also had more input into the beams and columns on Wellington.

“The structural strength in our hardwood is incredible; its strength-to-weight ratio compared to its price is internationally incredible. We have lots of data with fire testing; we understand how the wood performs in fire and how safe it is,” he said.

At ASH, production started with CNC – ‘computer numerical control’; big robotic timber processors cut and moulded the timber to meet the requirements of the connections. The company created a 3D model, with the full building in virtual reality.

“Every member, every screw in that model is millimetre perfect. From that we take a shop drawing with every individual piece,” he said. By rotating a beam on the computer, for example, improvements were made before manufacture.

Mr Wright said the shop drawing fed through to the company’s robots.

“The robots have their own program that actually determine the best tools to use – drills, saws, milling units, chain saws,” he said. The machine, which has 160 tools, chose the best tool to make the cut, although the technician “can override that”. “Technology has caught up now – you build it in the boardroom and then the robots go and make it for you,” Mr Wright said.

In contrast, the Bendigo building is only four-storeys, but has a huge floor plate and big floor space – 20,000 square metres overall including a car park, with a 13,000m2 building. The vast majority of the building is also timber. Cores anchor the building, but “everything wrapping around is timber”, said Lyons architect, Adam Pustola.

The ceiling and columns are built with ASH engineered timber.

The beams and columns, as in Wellington, are Glulam from ASH, while the floor slabs in most of the building are mainly CLT from X-Lam. The building has 256 columns and 469 beams.

Sustainability is enhanced by photovoltaics on the roof that offset some of the energy usage, efficient air quality monitoring systems and water and energy monitoring. There is a lot of high-performance double-glazed glass, which is screened with louvres.

Mr Pustola said the design also exposed a lot of the timber, which is both structure and finish. “We have almost all the beams and columns on show, while half the CLT is on show,” he said.

With sustainability a key issue, showing the attractive timber structure removes the need to add materials, such as cladding and joinery, that hide the traditional structure.

“The interior, the public space, is warm and based on biophilic design, he said. This ‘nature connected’ design philosophy, as explained in Planet Ark’s report, ‘Wood – Nature Inspired Design’, outlines how using wood in an office brings nature indoors. “It creates a wonderful, warm natural environment to work in, spacious,” said Mr Pustola.