Sustainable timber design a UQ speciality

30 Jan 2018

The future of sustainable building design has been the topic of discussion for researchers and industry professionals at The University of Queensland this week, with the launch of the Centre for Future Timber Structures’ professional development program.

World-renowned timber designer Professor Richard Harris and leading fire expert Professor Jose Torero led the Centre’s first professional development course, including live demonstrations in UQ’s state-of-the-art Fire and Structures Labs.

Course Coordinator Dr Rob Foster said the course was aimed at provide Australian building designers with the skills needed to design better, more sustainable buildings using timber.

“While it’s widely recognised that engineered timber is key to the future of construction, designing with timber does require some additional skills – and that’s where we come in,” said Dr Foster.

“UQ offers a course in the design of timber structures as part of our undergraduate civil engineering programme but that’s not the case at most universities, so many current professionals are missing this vital skill-set.”

Geoff Stringer, Product Development Manager for Hyne Timber, participated in the two-day course said it was not only a good refresher for the basics of timber design, but also outlined many of the latest trends in timber design and explained their evolution and motivations.

Industry-based PhD student, Rebecca Cherry, who is working on cross-laminated timber, was excited to be able to network with other colleagues that were so passionate about timber and its use across Australia and around the world.

What did the course cover?

The course combined two leading international experts with UQ’s own fire and structural timber expertise to provide unique content.

Richard Harris, a world renowned timber designer and Honorary Professor of Timber Engineering at the University of Bath, grounded the course in a deep understanding of the principles underlying the use of timber in structural design.

Professor Jose Torero, Director of the Centre for Disaster Resilience at the University of Maryland, and former Head of School of Civil Engineering at UQ, also highlighted the importance of fundamental understanding as he tackled the ‘elephant in the room’ – fire.

Discussion about timber use in the design of tall buildings highlighted the challenges that designers and researchers must address in order to design such buildings safely. Encouragingly, many of these challenges are currently being addressed by research at UQ School of Civil Engineering and through the Centre for Future Timber Structures’ associated ARC Future Timber Hub.

UQ’s Dr Christian Maluk and Dr Joe Gattas delivered eye-opening presentations about the latest research and development at UQ and internationally.

Dr Maluk gave a summary of recent fire research at UQ and how this was addressing many of the challenges highlighted by Professor Torero.

Dr Gattas detailed the latest research from around Europe and North America; providing an insight into the global state-of-the-art and the trend towards increasingly sophisticated digital fabrication approaches to timber manufacture and design.

The Centre for Future Timber Structures is a partnership between UQ's School of Civil Engineering, the Queensland State Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Arup, Hyne Timber and Lendlease.