A highlight of the program was architect Michael Green who is recognised as one of the top designers in North America, now engaged as Design Partner for technology-driven offsite construction company Katerra, a billion-dollar vertically integrated housing manufacturer.
He explained how highly repeatable design solutions and systems for building construction created unique outcomes, utilising standard platforms with different surface materials and external building features.
“This approach represents a wholesale shift of mindset from one-off projects to repeatable products, for mass production of componentised buildings”.
“All housing is manufactured in CLT using a ‘kit of parts’ approach to Passive House standards with detailing such as gaskets for all joins to achieve the high-quality thermal efficiency performance required”.
A key option offered is visually exposed internal wood panel walls, which is being accepted by over 80% of all buyers, a vastly greater level than they had anticipated but an indication of the high market acceptance of wood for housing.
Keynote speaker Andrew Waugh, the London-based Architect, outlined how mass wood construction in Europe is increasingly being used for office buildings, with emerging recognition of biophilic benefits to staff in wood buildings, consequently providing higher returns to developers.
He commented that increasing volumes are leading to industrialisation of the process, with CNC manufacture of mass wood and transportation by flatbeds achieving high efficiency in construction of buildings up to 25 storeys.
Waugh also compared the UK productivity improvements in manufacturing of 230% in the past few decades to construction, which has lost ground and is at minus 19%. He is confident that the current move into mass wood construction is the solution to this major economic issue, not only in UK but around the world
Tedd Benson, founder and owner of high quality Bensonwood and Unity Homes in USA, advised the construction industry needs to develop better ways to build, but “improve not revolutionise” through process and product.
He advocated adoption of the best digital technology to “build it twice – virtual before actual” and embrace the software solutions now available to attain high levels of accuracy for manufacture of energy efficient housing.
Nick Milestone, chairman of the Timber Research and Development Association (TRADA) in the UK, provided comparative information on timber construction based on recent projects in Europe, showing cost reductions achieved of 20% for preliminaries and 20% for main contractor, providing significant savings apart from any reduction in the on-site building costs.
His analysis also indicated timber frame construction was most economical in the building height range up to 5 storeys, and mass timber economical from 5 to 12 storeys.
A presentation by Matthew Linegar of Stora Enso Timber in Europe covered other aspects of savings which included 50% less weight, 30% less time on site, 20% less overall costs, and up to 5 times less transport movements.
He also commented that timber buildings “grow back” – with the average timber building construction being replaced by the forest resource in 17 minutes.
The IWBC conference in Boston was the first to be held and attracted over 300 delegates from North America and Europe, with many topics presented being applicable to offsite timber construction in Australia.
The sessions program at Frame 2019 titled ‘Timber Offsite Construction’ will cover many of these topics, and event details will be available in February 2019. ■
In circulation at the IWBC Conference – L-R: Gary Caulfield (Xlam), Kevin Ezard (Frame) and Nick Milestone (TRADA – UK).