Common tall timber building questions

Questions that may assist you to further understand the benefits, materials used, how these buildings are built and where you can find even more information!


Date: Friday 18 Jan 2019

1.  What are some of the tallest timber buildings in the world?

  • Tianning Pagoda, Changzhou, East China's Jiangsu province, 153.79m 

  • Mjøsa Tower, Brumunddal, Norway, 85.4m

  • Brock Commons, Vancouver, Canada, 53m

  • The Treet, Bergen, Norway, 49m

  • 25 King Street, Brisbane, 46.8m

  • Dalston Lane, London, 33m

  • The Cube, London, 33m

  • International House Sydney, 30m

  • FORTÉ, Melbourne, 32.3m

2. Why use timber for tall buildings?

  • Concrete and steel have been the mainstay of tall buildings for over 80 years

  • New developments have allowed us to engineer timber to produce a range of  improvements to the performance of timber to such a degree that it can be used in places that have been the domain of concrete and steel  

  • Strength to weight

  • Timber is renewable

  • Efficient construction processes

  • Carbon negative 

3. What are the benefits of using timber over other building materials and are there any drawbacks? 


  • Faster build processes

  • Safer building sites

  • Zero building waste

  • Removal of wet trades

  • Quicker build times

  • Lower traffic movements

  • Less preliminaries

  • Allows the optimal use of BIM 


  • Lack of industry experience to detail and correctly specify

  • Supply chain still in infancy

4. What are some built examples of tall timber buildings and are there any in Australia yet?

  • Forte

  • International House Sydney

  • 25 King Street (currently world’s tallest modern commercial timber building) 

5. I have heard of terms like CLT, LVL and Glulam. Can you explain what these are and where/how they are used in these tall timber buildings?

  • CLT is Cross Laminated Timber. CLT is used as a floor slab and wall panel in a similar way to pre-cast concrete floors and walls. 

  • LVL is Laminated Veneer Lumber. It is traditionally used in wall framing and roof trusses. New developments in technology see it being used to make large section columns and beams and solid floor and wall panels. 

  • Glulam is Glue laminated Timber. Glulam has been around for over 100 years. It is used to make straight and curved beams and large section columns.

6. Do we have enough wood to start using it to build tall buildings and where does the wood come from? 

Wesbeam has a 25 year supply agreement with the State Government of Western Australia and is actively involved in ongoing replanting programs.

7. Tell me about the environment impact of using timber to build tall buildings?

Timber that is sustainably managed provides us with a carbon positive building material as an alternative to carbon negative materials such as concrete and steel.  

8. What types of buildings can you use timber in?

Timber can be used in all building types. We are only restricted by our imaginations and willingness to continue finding new applications. Typically, engineered timber buildings suit commercial and residential mid-rise buildings. 

9. What do the building regulations say about the use of wood in tall buildings?

The Australian National Construction Code has specific regulations that allow timber to be used in almost every aspect of a building. 

10. Doesn’t wood burn? What happens if a fire starts in a tall timber building?

Yes, timber does burn, but it burns in a known way that can be used to provide very safe structures. It is not failure of the structural elements of a building that cause the most deaths in building fires, rather it is the fire associated with a building contents. Timber buildings are designed to meet or exceed the Fire Resistance Levels (FRLs) dictated by the National Construction Code.

11. What about termites?

The types of damage to timber that is normally associated with Termites in residential applications is managed by a number of very strict design and construction guidelines. Termites pose a very small risk to tall timber buildings.

12. How are these buildings built?

Most tall timber buildings are built using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). They will involve very high degrees of prefabrication. Work on site is governed by the prefabrication philosophy applied by the architect and builder and usually entails processes that more akin to assembly rather than construction. Wet trades are almost complete eliminated, vehicle movements are significantly reduced as are site preliminaries, crane sizes and movements and numbers of workers that are required on the building site. All of the design and much of the work is undertaken off site in a factory. 

13. What differences are there between a tall timber building and a standard concrete and steel building? 

Tall timber buildings are faster and safer to build than steel and concrete and they are usually half the weight resulting in smaller footings. Depending on span, floor and beam sections may be slightly deeper in a timber building, but column sizes are often significantly smaller. 

14. Building tall buildings with wood is a new idea, is there the industry support yet?

The timber industry is very supportive of the use of timber in tall buildings. The timber industry sponsored information resource, WoodSolutions’ proves a wealth of technical information relating all areas of timber construction. The building sector is beginning to adapt its processes and timber is being very closely assessed by both the tier one and tier two builders. The government regulatory authorities have invested significant resources into ensuring that building regulations keep pace with technology and ensure that all timber buildings meet or exceed requirements.

15. Where can I get more information about building tall buildings with wood?

16. General information on timber design in Australia for tall timber buildings can be found at: 

17. A number of international timber promotion organisations also maintain extensive timber design, specification and construction information resources such as: 

Environmental organisations will play a key role in supporting the development of a new sustainable industry. EnviroPark is proud to support Planet Ark’s Make it Wood campaign Planet Ark – Make it Wood 

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