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It's official: it costs less to build in wood

posted: 21/Dec/2015

Why do we choose particular building materials? Cost is often quoted as a factor, yet, as these new publications show, the true cost comparison of materials is often not fully understood - and there are large savings to be made by specifying wood and wood products. Five new free Technical Design Guides from WoodSolutions summarise the project and provide valuable insights for quantity surveyors, developers, designers, engineers and builders.

Forest and Wood Products Australia, through their WoodSolutions program, commissioned an extensive research program on comparative material costs, the results of which are available from www.woodsolutions.com.au in the form of Technical Design Guides.

Covering four ‘typical’ projects; a seven storey office building, an eight storey apartment building, a two storey aged care facility and a single storey industrial shed, the researchers undertook a process that involved

  1. Developing a model design for the four building types
  2. Designing each building using timber and also a non-timber material
  3. Developing an independent cost plan for each building type
  4. Presenting a commentary on each building type to inform design, costing and construction professionals of the reasoning behind decisions and what was considered in each cost plan

In all cases, the costs of the timber structural solutions were found to be significantly lower or lower than the competing non-timber solutions. Some of the main components were found to be significantly cheaper in timber for each building type investigated.

Each building was independently costed by an experienced industry quantity surveying company for a timber option as well as a more conventional concrete framed or steel framed building.

Interestingly, the research however did not take into account further savings that could be made by using wood products on sites with poor ground conditions, or as an off-site modular and prefabricated solution for sites with restricted access.

“This is an exciting result for design, construction and development professionals,” said Eileen Newbury, Marketing and Communications Manager for Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA), “the results confirm what many people have thought could be the case and provide hard data to support accurate costing of future projects.”

Eileen continued to explain that the new Guides provided a strong financial case for considering wood products in new projects, a case that becomes compelling when added to the environmental benefits of responsibly sourced wood, which has low embodied energy and stores carbon.

The research on which the Guides are based was collated by Timber Development Association, the University of Technology Sydney co-developed the research method and collaborated on design, cost and site issues with Arup, AECOM, Studio 505 and Fitzpatrick + Partners. Building Cost Information System, part of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, provided costs for wood products compared to concrete-framed or steel-framed buildings.

Copies of the summary Guide and the four separate detailed project Guides are available for free download from www.woodsolutions.com.au.




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The Accredited Queensland Timber Merchant Network (AQTMN) is a group of Queensland owned and operated businesses with the aim of growing Queensland's forest and timber industry.

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