Engineered wood solutions to concrete cost blowouts

Engineered wood solutions to concrete cost blowouts

May 29, 2018

In an industry not normally noted for hyperbole, concrete suppliers are now talking about a “once in a lifetime” demand surge over at least the next 5 years, as a record number of public infrastructure projects gear up and are progressively delivered in Australia. 
As a consequence, developers and builders throughout Australia will see supply cost blowouts on major construction projects, the likes of which we have not seen in several decades. Some quantity surveyors are forecasting construction price increases of up to 6% by the end of 2018. That escalation will likely continue to compound. 
Supplies of concrete, steel and relevant labour force will be pushed and as is to be expected, it will be the smaller commercial builders who will face the toughest conditions.
For the timber industry, this situation presents an historic opportunity. For some years now, interest in timber construction for commercial projects has been growing, thanks to industry information campaigns, changes to the BCA and innovations in mass timber and prefabricated construction techniques. 
A number of leading builders such as Australand, Lend Lease, Strongbuild and others have shown the way with technically ground-breaking projects.
One of the core drivers for these timber innovators has been that wood construction saves time and money in construction. But the building industry is slow to change if it doesn’t have to. 
Most 2nd and 3rd tier builders have long-established procurement systems, workforce and suppliers that are based in traditional concrete construction methodology. 
Whilst timber may objectively be a good alternative, changing ones’ whole business practice to adopt new techniques doesn’t happen unless there is a compelling reason. 
However the coming shortages and price hikes in concrete construction and steel supply may just provide the catalyst needed to sway more builders to get on the timber construction bandwagon. 
Assisting developers and contractors, the engineered wood supply chain has also gained ground in providing credible support for builders, with comprehensive design, detailing and coordination of services being offered by companies such as Tilling Timber as part of their remit.
With a timber build, once the Principle’s Project Requirements are embedded into the lead consultants’ drawings and specifications, construction detailing in timber is relatively straightforward.
Given the above, now is the time for builders of low to mid-rise projects to consider bringing timber into their procurement supply chain. 
There is no doubting that industry forces will be putting historic pressure on profitability and competitiveness. 
Those that act before the curve will be the ones that are able to manage the market risks and maintain their competitive edge in what will be increasingly challenging market conditions.
These issues and more will be discussed in sessions at Frame 2018 titled ‘Timber Offsite Construction’ to be held on Monday and Tuesday 18-19 June at Park Hyatt Melbourne, and for details visit the website 


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