Australia champions decarbonisation with world’s tallest mass timber towers

Mass Timber can reduce embodied carbon in buildings by up to 80%

Sun 19 Mar 23


Australia is quickly establishing itself as a major player in mass timber construction, as evidenced by projects such as the proposed Milligan Group’s hybrid timber tower and the Atlassian Central Tower. With recent backing from investment specialist Merricks Capital, Milligan Group aims to complete the world’s tallest hybrid timber tower by 2030.

The 55-story hybrid tower is set to outdo Milwaukee’s Ascent MKE Building, which claimed the title of the world’s tallest timber building in July 2022, surpassing Norway’s 18-story Mjösa Tower.

That said, it’s a long way from the Japanese w350 project – which by 2041 is proposed to include a 70-storey mass timber building!

In 2013 Vancouver based Michael Green gave one of the most famous lectures on timber skyscrapers. A decade on, it’s now a reality. Footage courtesy of @TED

Driven by its low embodied carbon, the adoption of timber construction is ushering the industry into a new era of sustainable practices. The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) CEO Davina Rooney noted in a recent AFR article that upfront carbon comprises 16% of Australia’s total building emissions.

Yet, without action, this figure could surge to 85% as the electricity grid decarbonizes. Rooney believes that large-scale net-zero buildings are essential for addressing these difficult-to-reduce emissions and tackling the embodied carbon challenge.

And Mass Timber is acutely positioned to respond to this challenge.

Sydney’s Milligan Group Hybrid Timber Tower secures Merricks Capital backing

In July 2022, Milligan Group received initial approval to rezone a 2,000-square-metre site at the junction of Hunter and Pitt streets in Sydney’s CBD. The location for the world’s tallest hybrid timber tower will offer breathtaking city and harbor views, as well as a blend of residential, commercial, and retail spaces.

Increasingly Mass Timber is being recognised as a solution to low embodied construction. Footage courtesy of @PBSNewsHour

Fast forward to last week, Merricks Capital has joined forces with Milligan Group to finance the construction of the $2 billion, 55-story mixed-use commercial tower. The development will feature a sustainable office building with top-tier amenities for collaboration and lifestyle, situated next to the Hunter Street metro station. Merricks Capital has contributed $465 million to the project, which is anticipated to rejuvenate Sydney’s low office occupancy rates and deliver significant cultural and economic benefits to the city. Upon completion, the tower’s estimated value is approximately $2 billion.

Atlassian Central Tower: The renewable energy-powered skyscraper

Just a stone’s throw away from the Hunter Street metro station, construction commenced on the 39-story Atlassian Central Tower in September 2022. Situated in Sydney’s Tech Central innovation and technology district, adjacent to the Central rail station, this Japanese-Australian joint venture is a mixed-use tower that aims to slash carbon dioxide emissions by at least 50% during construction compared to conventional projects while operating solely on renewable energy.

Atlassian’s proposed new headquarters will operate on 100 per cent renewable energy. 

The Atlassian Central Tower will employ hybrid timber technology, combining steel frames and cross-laminated wood from the seventh story upwards. Reinforced concrete will be used for the basement and lower floors. Australian real estate company Dexus is partnering with Obayashi’s joint venture and local construction firm Built to finish the tower, scheduled for completion in 2026.

Accelerating Investment in Mass Timber to Foster a Greener Future

The building and construction industry must urgently decarbonize, as the 2022 Global Status Report states it represents over 34% of energy demand and 37% of energy and process-related CO2 emissions globally. To achieve decarbonization by 2050, enhancements in building energy performance, reduced carbon footprints of building materials, more robust policy commitments, and greater investment in energy efficiency are imperative.

Mass timber presents multiple environmental advantages, making it a prime candidate for investment incentives. While initiatives like the Australian Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s $300 million building program are a step in the right direction, further action is needed.

As reported last week in Wood Central, there are only 70 CLT manufacturers worldwide, a number that must increase swiftly to keep up with demand.

Planting more trees is crucial, in recent years the Australian Forest Products Association has led the push to plant more trees through it’s “We need a tree change” campaign. (Photo credit: Michael Green Images)

Improved forest management and decreased reliance on wood burning for energy have the potential to significantly increase timber yields. Moreover, optimizing harvesting and recovery processes can supply more fibre for mass timber construction. Tree planting is crucial, as emphasized by the Australian Forest Products Association’s “We need a tree change” campaign. As the mass timber industry continues to develop and expand, greater investment can promote sustainable construction and contribute to addressing climate change.

Australia is emerging as a global leader in mass timber construction, with a strong commitment to sustainability and the rapid evolution of the industry. The continued investment in mass timber will be essential for driving sustainable construction practices, enhancing forest management, and encouraging tree planting. As the mass timber industry continues to grow and innovate, Australia has the potential to not only achieve its decarbonization goals but also inspire other nations to adopt sustainable building materials and practices.


  • Wood Central

    Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media across all digital platforms. Our vision is to develop an integrated platform for media, events, education, and products that connect, inform, and inspire the people and organisations who work in and promote forestry, timber, and fibre.


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