Compelling landscape gives rise to radical CLT-GLT house

From the remnants of an old property and monolithic boulders, a design using CLT and GLT from Level Architekture emerged that invited these elements into a collaborative partnership with Vistek Engineers, XLam and Hyne Timber.
The result, is Royd Clan’s House in Ceres, Geelong.

Approached by a repeat client, architect Nadine Samaha from Level-ak had a clear vision: “I wanted to create a structure which emulated these boulders coming from the ground, and strong winds on the hill consolidated the idea of fragmenting the house into pavilion clusters which reduces the wind turbulence and appear as boulders.”
The design also called for incorporating scattered stones from the previous structure as support for internal stairs.
The concept, according to Nadine, was “radical” and the clients “loved it”.

Royd Clan’s House: preliminary plans and sketch

Following concept approval Nadine contacted Robert Mansell from Hyne Timber, with whom she had previously worked on a project in Richmond, Melbourne.

Nadine explained to Robert she was interested in using CLT (cross-laminated timber) and GLT (glue-laminated timber) on the innovative design to address a number of environmental and structural considerations, sequester carbon and create a warmer biophilic environment.
CLT was specified for floor and roof diaphragm and inclined walls of each pavilion (to create a shear wall perpendicular to the portal frames) and GLT portal frames were arranged in one of the primary axes of each pavilion.

Robert Mansell introduced XLam (manufacturers of CLT) to Nadine, and XLam in turn, introduced Vistek Structural Engineers to the discussion.

XLam precut CLT panels and Hyne GLT beams

The unique design called for extensive material assessment, logistical considerations and structural analysis to realise Nadine’s vision, and working with Hyne Timber, XLam and Vistek was a decisive move in delivering that vision.

“We had a great working relationship between all parties involved,” Nadine remarked.

Nathan Benbow of Vistek, upon seeing the design remarked, “We were immediately intrigued by the conceptual architectural design with its multiple pavilions, large open spaces and unique geometry.
This certainly presented engineering challenges in terms of lateral stability, vertical load transfer, connectivity, deflection, and vibration, just to name a few.
The central living pavilion was a particular challenge with such long spans, large voids, and a butterfly roof. The Vistek team and I decided we were up for the challenge, knuckling down to come up with innovative solutions that resulted in a showcase of timber and a fusion of structure and architecture.”

“I worked very closely and extensively with Nadine to create a structural design that achieved her architectural and aesthetic intent. Once the general schematic arrangement was determined, I worked with Hyne Timber and XLam to make sure the member/panel sizes and connection detailing were achievable with their standard manufacturing capabilities.”

Royd Clan’s House: sequence of construction

Given the challenging structural demands Nadine explained: ”The dialogue was focused more on the connections, the thickness of the timber elements and how they will work with other materials. Due to transport logistics the CLT panel lengths and widths were given special consideration, but there was no change to the architectural design.”

A recurring theme in the success of the project was the importance of DfMA (Design for Manufacture and Assembly), and the culmination of this collaborative building methodology became highly visible on-site with the arrival of three trucks of GLT from Hyne and six trucks of CLT panels from XLam.
In total, there were 15 lifting days for GLT erection and 10 lifting days for CLT erection.

The total volume of Australian pine plantation timber in the project is 40m3 of GLT and 180m3 of CLT, which according to Robert Mansell, will be re-grown in just 17 minutes.

Installation of Xlam CLT panels and Hyne Timber GLT beams and columns

“To the untrained eye it may not look like this project implements many DfMA principles, but it certainly does. The key to this successful project was the tightknit collaboration  amongst all stakeholders throughout the design, shop drawing and manufacture
phases,” Nathan said.

On working with engineered timber, Nadine remarked: “Timber is a beautiful material to work with particularly when it comes from a renewable resource as a plantation. It’s a live material that makes us reconnect with nature. CLT’s thermal property and mass provide added value to any structure.
The client used only the fireplace to heat the whole house in winter, which is remarkable. We did insulate with PIR above the CLT on the walls and the roof along using thermally broken double glazed windows but obviously, the CLT is performing more than what we expected.

Royd Clan’s House: mass timber on full display

I’d love to work again with both CLT and GLT on a multi-storey structure and perhaps with GLT on an individual structure where the boundaries in the design can be pushed further. 
I also learned a lot on CLT and their sustainability measures for waste when we visited the (XLam) factory at Wodonga.”

Robert Mansell recently joined the XLam team of mass timber professionals, and on assessing the learnings from the project sees the successful build as clear affirmation of the importance of collaborative ECI (early contractor involvement) and utilising DfMA building methodology.
“A binding driver for the team was a shared desire to deliver a sustainable and aesthetically pleasing building. It was unique,” Robert remarked.

Mass timber speaks to these values, and Royd Clan’s House will maintain those foundations for many generations to follow.


Images: John Gollings Photography & level-ak

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