Architecture

Australia's tallest timber building makes a towering case for eco-friendly construction

Australia's tallest timber bui...
Floor-by-floor, huge exposed V-shaped columns were stacked on top of one another to support the timber slabs used for floor plates and exposed ceiling soffits inside 25 King
Floor-by-floor, huge exposed V-shaped columns were stacked on top of one another to support the timber slabs used for floor plates and exposed ceiling soffits inside 25 King
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Inside the recently completed 25 King, a timber tower in Brisbane, Australia
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Inside the recently completed 25 King, a timber tower in Brisbane, Australia
The entrance lobby at 25 king includes a greenery-covered wall
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The entrance lobby at 25 king includes a greenery-covered wall
Floor-by-floor, huge exposed V-shaped columns were stacked on top of one another to support the timber slabs used for floor plates and exposed ceiling soffits inside 25 King
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Floor-by-floor, huge exposed V-shaped columns were stacked on top of one another to support the timber slabs used for floor plates and exposed ceiling soffits inside 25 King
25 King from the outside
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25 King from the outside
Lured by their superior sustainable qualities, high-rise developers around the world are increasingly turning to timber materials for construction
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Lured by their superior sustainable qualities, high-rise developers around the world are increasingly turning to timber materials for construction
Opened last week, 25 King by Australian architecture firm Bates Smart stands 10 stories and 45 m (147 ft) tall in the city of Brisbane
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Opened last week, 25 King by Australian architecture firm Bates Smart stands 10 stories and 45 m (147 ft) tall in the city of Brisbane
Billed as Australia's tallest timber structure, 25 King tastefully pairs its wooden skeleton with a shimmering glass facade
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Billed as Australia's tallest timber structure, 25 King tastefully pairs its wooden skeleton with a shimmering glass facade
The entrance lobby at 25 King includes a greenery-covered wall
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The entrance lobby at 25 King includes a greenery-covered wall

Lured by their superior sustainable qualities, high-rise developers around the world are increasingly turning to timber materials for construction, and a newly completed office tower in Australia is the latest shining example of this. Billed as the nation's tallest timber structure, 25 King tastefully pairs its wooden skeleton with a shimmering glass facade, leaving the exposed timber beams to become part of the aesthetic inside as well as out.

Opened last week, 25 King by Australian architecture firm Bates Smart stands 10 stories and 45 m (147 ft) tall in Brisbane. According to the developers, this makes it Australia's tallest timber structure and pushes the boundaries of building design for the commercial world.

25 King from the outside
25 King from the outside

Where steel and concrete might have otherwise been used in the construction, the firm deployed forms of highly engineered wooden materials instead. These consist of Glulam (glued laminated timber) and CLT (cross laminated timber), and their manufacturing results in far lower carbon footprint than that of resource-intensive concrete and steel.

This also meant that a lot of the building's components could be pre-fabricated off-site, greatly reducing on-site wastage and construction time with the entire structure going up in 15 months. Floor by floor, huge exposed V-shaped columns were stacked on top of one another to support the timber slabs used for floorplates and exposed ceiling soffits. This has the added benefit of creating a pleasant aesthetic inside.

Inside the recently completed 25 King, a timber tower in Brisbane, Australia
Inside the recently completed 25 King, a timber tower in Brisbane, Australia

"25 King reflects a turn towards making buildings and spaces that are warm and inviting," says Philip Vivian, director of Bates Smart. "We know that people want to connect to nature, and using timber on the exterior and interior of buildings helps complete the connection, making people feel more at ease within the built environment."

The bottom floor consists of a shaded colonnade home to cafes and restaurants, while the nine floors above it are used as open-plan office spaces. Support columns are arranged strategically throughout to keep their individual size to a minimum and allow maximum flexibility of the space.

Lured by their superior sustainable qualities, high-rise developers around the world are increasingly turning to timber materials for construction
Lured by their superior sustainable qualities, high-rise developers around the world are increasingly turning to timber materials for construction

According to Bates Smart, its method of construction when compared to conventional building practices brought a 46 percent reduction in energy use, a 29 percent reduction in potable water use and a 74 percent saving in embodied carbon, thanks to the C02 sequestered in the timber structure. Other sustainable features include rainwater harvesting, energy efficient lighting, a greenery-covered wall in the entrance lobby, "optimized air-conditioning" and aluminum sun-shading to keep the interior cool.

"Each time an engineered timber project completes, architects learn more about CLT's potential as a new building material and how we can work and innovate with it on all types of buildings," says Vivian. "This building marks a genuine commitment to CLT from the industry. It's exciting to see the ideas take hold and evolve across the globe, and we're happy to contribute with the lessons we've learned on 25 King."

Source: Bates Smart

9 comments
myale
So how is its resistance to fire covered? Timber construction is faster but would be great to understand how they fare versus concrete in resistance versus damage - are they more resistant to damage from earthquakes, natural storms etc.
Terence Hawkes
I’d be much more worried about wood rot,
HighlanderJuan
Interesting article. I suspect everyone likes natural materials, and so a building designed and built like this one should teach us a lot. And yes, I also question the fire prevention aspects of the building. Additionally, I'm wondering when hempcrete, first discovered in a 6th century bridge abutment in France, will enjoy wider use in construction. Buildings using hempcrete ten stories in height have been built in Europe. Although hempcrete is not typically used as a structural element (it takes a while to cure or harden, hence the use of pre-manufactured hemcrete bricks or blocks), it is used as insulating infill between the frame members and it does tend to reduce racking. It is normally used together with a timber frame (or steel or concrete), with the frame material transferring the vertical load of the roof and upper floors. Racking, by the way, is a term used to describe buildings tilting as a result of their structural components being forced out of plumb. Racking is most commonly caused by wind forces exerting horizontal pressure, but it can also be caused by seismic stress, thermal expansion or contraction, etc.
fb36
Large cities of the world got destroyed, many times in history, because of city-wide fires! & that was because the whole cities were made of wood! Are we trying to bring back those kind of disasters to the modern world?
paul314
Wood is actually pretty hard to burn when it's in any kind of serious thickness. If your building is sprinklered and not made of 2-by you're likely in good shape. (My grandfather once worked in an old factory building that had a fire. Inspector said later that if it had been steel all the beams would have buckled. Instead, they scraped the inch or so of char off all the 12x12's, recalculated the permissible floor loading, and went back to work.)
AladdinConnolly
I visited the sequoia's in CA earlier this year. They are thousands of years old and survived an average of a one massive wildfire per century. They only die by falling over becuase the roots are to shallow for structures 40 stories high as wide around as 30-40 ft. So thick wood is not a fire hazard.
Nik
As a kid, I lived in an old, ''wattle and daub,'' farmhouse, which was several hundred years old, in Suffolk, England. There are many such houses in England, and they are timber framed, with woven fence panels made of willow then daubed with clay, which is reinforced with straw, to make the walls. The roof was also thatched with reeds. Some originally had no chimney, just a fire pit in the centre of the main room. The smoke filtered through the thatch, and kept the bugs and other creatures out of it. The fact that they are still in existence hows how resilient they can be. Past city fires were probably amongst ''shanty style,'' buildings. In the USA, many old wooden buildings also had wooden chimneys! The chimneys were built at an angle, so they were almost falling over, and were held up with a prop. If the chimney caught fire, the prop was knocked out, and the chimney the fell away from the building, and the rest of the house survived. Present common practice of using bitumen roof tiles in the USA, is crazy, especially in wooded areas prone to fires, as bitumen is highly flammable, and has a relatively low flash point. I would guess this was part of the cause of the recent devastation in California. Big solid beams dont catch fire easily. Before they can catch fire, the whole beam would have to be brought up to a temperature for wood to burn, somewhere over 500 deg F. (Its possible to boil water in a paper sack!) So I dont think fire is a threat to this building, and no doubt it has an comprehensive sprinkler system.
christopher
The but-ugly steel air-conditioning ducts ruin the effect - and it would only have taken a tiny bit of extra effort to design pleasing wooden ones instead...
Kuniva
I don't understand how chopping down trees to make a building is eco-friendly.