Working with the Victorian government to create sustainable timber ‘GovHub’ precincts in the regions
Over the past two years, the team at the WoodSolutions Mid-rise Advisory Program (MAP) - a voluntary matching initiative - has worked closely with Development Victoria, their consultants and contractors, to support the design and construction of two new regional government precincts, or ‘GovHubs’.
The recently completed Ballarat GovHub, and an equivalent now under construction in Bendigo, represent the state government’s ‘new way’ of doing business in regional Victoria, with a focus on enhancing customer service, revitalising CBDs, and delivering economic benefits to the local community.
The vision for the Ballarat GovHub was to provide a state-of-the-art community asset and workplace, supported by sustainable solutions that would decrease running costs, improve environmental outcomes, and enhance the wellbeing of its occupants.
When it came to selecting the primary construction material, therefore, timber seemed the obvious choice.
The relationship with MAP commenced at the feasibility stage, and the team remained on-hand throughout design, tender and construction processes to provide all timber-related information and advice requested, and ensure optimal outcomes from the use of wood.
Since its establishment in 2016, the unique and innovative WoodSolutions voluntary matching program has engaged and educated the Australian construction industry on the benefits of timber, with a view to accelerating the adoption of timber in mid-rise construction.
This program is voluntary funded by a number of key companies within the sector. A list of program supporters can be found at https://www.woodsolutions.com.au/mid-rise
Initially, Development Victoria explored the possibility of using wood for the Ballarat GovHub by commissioning two designs at the tender stage — one using timber, the other concrete. This approach allowed the market to test the timber alternative. When contractors were appointed, they ultimately opted for the timber design.
The Ballarat GovHub was the first mass engineered timber commercial building undertaken by Development Victoria, and remains one of only a handful throughout the country.
The GovHub’s primary structure is mass timber, a combination of cross laminated timber (CLT) and glue laminated timber (GLT), radically reducing its carbon footprint.
The resultant structure is a $100 million, 15,000m2, five-storey mass timber building in the City of Ballarat. Once fully occupied, the state-of-the-art space will house up to 1,000 Victorian government workers.
Upon completion in April 2021, the GovHub became the largest timber-built office building in Victoria and achieve a Green Star 5 rating for the base building and fit-out.
Jennifer Cunich, Lead Program Development Manager at the WoodSolutions Mid-rise Advisory Program said the architectural quality of the building, adoption of timber as a renewable structural framing material, and focus on sustainable and flexible workplaces are all factors that make this project unique.
“The Ballarat GovHub has been described as civic in nature, personable in scale and sustainable in outlook, all of which are made possible through the smart use of timber,” said Cunich.
“The contributions of the MAP team served to ensure locally compliant and effective design and construction solutions, and the finished building is as stunning as it is functional and sustainable.”
Through the Ballarat project, the Development Victoria team sought to provide a template for future state government mass timber buildings. As a result of its success, the construction of a similar structure in Bendigo is now underway, this time using only locally sourced timber.
Due for completion in 2022, the Bendigo building will become Victoria’s third GovHub, and the second to choose timber as its primary construction material.
“The goal of the MAP team is to ensure decision makers in the design and build sector are fully aware of the many advantages of wood as a construction material, while dispelling timber-related myths and misconceptions,” said Cunich.
“It is encouraging to see the Victorian Government’s commitment to the use of timber in construction.
“We are proud of the vital role the MAP team has played in supporting both of these important projects, and ensuring all desired outcomes are achieved through the use of timber.”