NCC changes mean the sky is (almost) the limit for timber construction
FWPA’s efforts have paid off, with the 2019 amendments to the National Construction Code (NCC) heralding a new era of opportunity for mid-rise timber buildings.
Responding to a successful, evidence-based submission by FWPA, the NCC 2019 extends the use of fire-protected timber systems in all classes of building. This new provision adds timber-construction opportunities for schools, retail premises, hospitals and aged-care facilities up to an effective height of 25 metres (typically eight storeys).
The 2016 edition of the NCC had, for the first time permitted construction to an effective height of 25 metres when using fire-protected timber building systems, but only for Class 2, 3 and 5 buildings (multi-residential, hospitality, accommodation and office buildings respectively).
Timber building systems include traditional stick or lightweight timber framing and newer mass timber options such as cross-laminated timber (CLT), laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and glued-laminated timber (glulam).
Under the NCC 2019, the ‘deemed-to-satisfy’ solution for timber construction requires the use of fire-protective coverings like fire-grade plasterboard on timber structural materials.
The requirement for sprinkler systems in timber structures had previously affected their competitiveness with concrete and steel buildings, but the NCC 2019 includes compulsory sprinkler systems in all Class 2 and 3 buildings between four and eight storeys in height. This is a win for everyone, because the effectiveness of sprinkler systems in saving lives and buildings is well documented.
The option to build using pre-fabricated timber systems, rather than traditional steel and concrete, brings a number of advantages, including faster construction, greater safety on the worksite, lighter buildings and footings, and the environmental benefits of using timber — a sustainable and renewable building material. The combination of these factors and the NCC 2019 amendments will create new market opportunities for suppliers of timber building systems and add sales volume for our industry.
The NCC is produced and maintained by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB). It is published in three volumes, with the Building Code of Australia (BCA) in Volumes One and Two and the Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA) in Volume Three.
In March 2019, the ABCB will be presenting NCC seminars in capital cities and the NCC 2019 will be formally adopted from 1 May this year. To download the NCC 2019 preview, or to find out more about the seminars, visit the ABCB website.