Aurecon Backs Timber Hub to Solve Net Zero Construction

Researchers at the Advance Timber Hub are turning to AI, Robotics and AR to produce the timbers of the future.

Thu 15 Feb 24


One of Australia’s largest engineering firms has backed a new timber hub created by the Australian Government to advance timber in construction.

Aurecon – the engineers behind Boola Katatjin, the largest mass timber building in the Southern Hemisphere – will commit $200,000 towards the $16.5 million “ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub to Advance Timber for Australia’s Future Built Environment.”

The Hub aims to develop the resources, enablers, and drivers to advance timber as a natural resource and be the material of choice, leading towards a net zero future for Australia’s built environment.

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In September, Aurecon was awarded the TOP WA Prize for Engineering for its work on the Boola Katitjin development, which used fully autonomous robots to install some of the 1800 individual pieces of mass timber used on the project. (Photo Credit: Aurecon)

As the Principal Partner, Aurecon will be involved in various research nodes, including the Performance of Building Components, Manufacturing Innovation Towards a Low Carbon and Circular Economy, and Building Performance for Occupants.

“Timber has a key role to play in decreasing both embodied and operational carbon as we move towards a net zero future,” according to Aurecon’s major project director, Ralph Belperio, who sits on the Hub’s Executive Board.

“Several of the research nodes that the Hub is tackling are directly relevant to the decarbonisation pursuits of many of our key clients,” Mr Belperio said.

“We have assembled a team of our most eminent practitioners to focus on each of the relevant nodes that can help guide the research strategies to ensure that the outcomes remain industry-focused and meet the needs of the broader construction community.”

“Our significant investment is key to our desire to remain at the forefront of innovation, both in the efficient and effective use of timber in our efforts to decarbonise the built environment and in our broader drive for more sustainable outcomes”.

How a 5% Timber Boost Could Ease Australia’s Housing Crisis!

Meanwhile, investing in new technologies can generate thousands of affordable and sustainable houses Australia-wide – with a 5% improvement in supply chain efficiency, unlocking 8,000 new timber frames annually.

That is, according to Associate Professor Joe Gattas, who said that investments in AI, robotics and augmented reality could help solve Australia’s looming housing crisis.

Dr Gattas, who co-leads two research areas at the hub, said, “Early consultation with our industry partners can help us make efficiencies across all forest stages to build the supply chain.”

Associate Professor Joe Gattas co-leads two research areas at the hub and is looking to boost efficiences in timber supply chains to produce more timber frames. (Photo Credit: UQ)
Associate Professor Joe Gattas co-leads two research areas at the hub and is looking to boost efficiences in timber supply chains to produce more timber frames. (Photo Credit: UQ)

He said this can achieved “by using new technologies such as computer vision and artificial intelligence to get more usable material out of each tree and augmented reality and robotics to enhance productivity for time-consuming and repetitive tasks.”

“Every gain in the supply chain allows more houses to be built, and we hope this will increase the use of Australian-grown timber as a more sustainable choice for construction.”

According to the Advanced Timber Hub Director,  Professor Keith Crews, the research is critical to understanding how low-carbon materials, like timber, can be used to advance construction.

“We all benefit from more timber in construction – by delivering a boost for the industry and supporting sustainability targets because timber removes carbon from the environment and stores it,” he said.

According to Professor Crews, the Hub aims to develop the resources, enablers and drivers to advance timber as a natural resource – “the material of choice” – leading towards a net zero future for Australia’s built environment.

“The hub has built a large partnership of organisations that believe in its strategic vision, mission and purpose,” according to Professor Crews, who spoke to Wood Central’s Senior Editor Jim Bowden.

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Flashback to Thursday, November 23, 2017… The University of Queensland’s School of Civil Engineering hosts the official launch of the ARC Future Timber Hub, Australia’s leading timber research collaboration, bringing together experts from industry, government and academia with a shared commitment to the uptake of tall timber construction in the Pacific region.

Whilst timber is commonly used in smaller dwellings such as housing, Professor Crews said the Hub is now working with the Queensland State Government “to look at ways it can be incorporated into larger projects such as athlete accommodation for the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Professor Crews said.

This is critical after newly elected Queensland Premier Steven Miles pledged last month to use “cleaner, greener and more sustainable” building materials as part of a planned $7 billion infrastructure spend.

“Making more timber available will also help support the Australian Government’s National Housing Accord to deliver 10,000 affordable homes over the next five years,” Professor Crews said.

As part of COP28 last year, Australia and leaders from 40 countries have committed to driving decarbonisation, adaptation and resilience in the built environment through greater utilisation of timber – footage courtesy of @GlobalABC.

According to Federal Assistant Minister for Education, Senator Anthony Chisholm, the Advance Timber Hub is funded through the ARC’s Industrial Transformation Research Program, demonstrating the benefits of investing in publicly funded research in Australia.

“Australians want our country to be a nation that makes things through sustainable practices, but this can only be done when we back initiatives like the ARC’s Linkage Program, which promotes innovative national and international research collaboration and partnerships with global suppliers,” according to Senator Chisholm.

“The Advance Timber Hub will enable an advanced manufacturing transformation of Australia’s timber and construction industries, supporting resource diversification and creating new opportunities for regional development and employment.”

Acting ARC CEO Dr Richard Johnson said the linkage program is all about bringing together researchers and industry partners to drive innovation and translation.

“The ARC is pleased to support this Research Hub, which involves strong collaboration among national and international universities and industry partners, to stimulate rapid growth in innovation in the timber industry,” Dr Johnson said.

  • Wood Central’s Senior Editor Jim Bowden is attending the launch of the Advance Timber Hub and will provide a report. For further information, including his interview with Advance Timber Hub Director Professor Keith Crews, read Wood Central’s special feature.


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    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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