First CLT plant in Australia now underway

First CLT plant in Australia now underway

April 9, 2018

The landmark XLam manufacturing plant for Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) at Wodonga is now underway and has commenced supply of prefabricated CLT panels to building construction projects around the country. 
 
XLam’s Head of Design, Nick Hewson, who will be participating at Frame 2018, said projects were at various stages. “There are a lot of smaller projects initially as the factory cuts its teeth, then we will move into larger multi-residential and commercial jobs in the next three to four months. A couple of big construction projects are looking very favourable at the moment,” he said. 
 
“We are carefully planning our first few projects as the plant finds its feet and will progressively increase our capacity through additional shifts over time. There is plenty of opportunity for people with projects to come to us between now and the end of the year.”
 
Mr Hewson said CLT was a whole new way for the construction industry to work. “CLT is not only a new material, but also a new construction philosophy. Working with CLT clients need to make decisions earlier in the project lifecycle when compared to more traditional forms of construction,” he said. 
 
“In general, construction in Australia sometimes results in big decisions happening later in the lifecycle. With CLT, manufacturers need decisions relatively early, or up front. CLT requires a shift in clients understanding of the technology and an adjusted mindset to get on board with a different construction philosophy to achieve the benefits.”
 
By the end of year, Mr Hewson said XLam hoped to operate with capacity of approximately 20,000m3 per annum. “We expect that by August to achieve this level, moving to toward increased capacity in 2019,” he said.
 
“The factory will continue to grow and add extra shifts which shall trigger the purchase of additional processing equipment.”
 
XLam is part of the Mayflower Enterprise group, which includes a number of softwood milling operations within close proximity to the Wodonga plant.
 
“We are currently only producing panels using radiata pine as all of our testing, including structural, fire and acoustic has been conducted with radiata pine. The economics of our CLT is based on radiata pine and that’s what we will concentrate on 100 per cent” he said. 
 
It is also a species which is very easy to treat and XLam are fully committed to offering a range of treatment options for our panels, from termites to fungal attack. With ever larger structures being built from CLT it is vital to ensure the panels are able to achieve the design life of the building. 
 
Mr Hewson said in the long-term, XLam wanted to work on a variety of projects. “While we will do large ones, we still want to do smaller commercial and residential. We need smaller jobs to run the plant effectively,” he said.
 
It would be difficult to effectively manage a plant if all projects were 5000m3 at a time. “We need a balance of projects. We are happy to talk to potential clients about all sorts of projects and varying scales. We can guide people down the correct path for their particular project.”
 
The Wodonga plant will have about 20 employees at the start, which will likely grow to about 30-40 in the future.
 
Frame 2018 titled ‘Timber Offsite Construction’ will be held on Monday and Tuesday 18-19 June at Park Hyatt Melbourne, and for details visit the website www.frameaustralia.com 
 

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