Forest and Wood Products Australia has launched a new section in the Forwood newsletter dedicated to showcasing the breadth and depth of our industry via a new series of member profiles.
FWPA will make its way through the member list alphabetically, and looks forward to exhibiting contributions of FWPA members from A to Z.
“Here’s the opportunity to learn more about our members as we delve into their business, people and projects and ask about their challenges, solutions, approaches and inspirations,” said FWPA CEO Andrew Leighton.
“Our aim is to celebrate their dedication and the important role they play in making our industry thrive,” Mr Leighton said.
“We can’t wait to share these stories with you, and we hope that they will engage you as much as they inspire us.”
First up, is Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH), Australia’s largest hardwood manufacturer, known for its innovative, sustainable, and high-quality products. ASH sources its products from certified, regrowth forests and the company’s MASSLAM range was notably used in the construction of the University of Tasmania’s West Park Campus.
ASH has developed a reputation within the industry for embracing new technologies, automation, economies of scale and innovative manufacturing capabilities. These capabilities facilitate moving timber products as feedstock into the company’s various manufacturing lines, including mouldings, reprocessing, engineered flooring, finger jointing, laminating and mass-timber.
The goal of this innovative vertical integration approach is the production of the highest quality timber products at the most affordable price. The ASH range includes everything from flooring to benchtops, panels, mass-timber, green energy production, architraves, veneers, windows, doors, cladding and more.
Sustainability is another important priority for ASH, which prides itself on using sawdust to power the plant, and sourcing timber from certified, regrowth forests committed to sustainable harvesting, with 100% of each log being used.
Equally important is the dedication of ASH to the health and safety of its employees and all other stakeholders throughout its operations.
ASH is one of the many FWPA members to embrace the messages of The Ultimate Renewable brand, with branded trucks and website promotion.
During 2022, FWPA CEO Andrew Leighton and R&D manager Chris Lafferty toured ASH’s MASSLAM facilities and met with the team to learn about their state-of-the-art equipment.
The MASSLAM range includes hardwood and softwood beams, columns, floors and roof structures produced using sustainably sourced glue-laminated timber.
While mass timber is widely accepted to offer advantages for construction, MASSLAM presents additional benefits including enabling longer spans, higher ceilings, increased floor space, lesser beam depth, and increased affordability due to the unique strength increase made possible from Australian hardwoods.
“ASH had long been Australia’s largest producer of glulam by volume, and MASSLAM was a natural extension on that experience and capacity by increasing capability to effectively laminate much larger section sizes, fit for the mass timber market,” said ASH director and national business development manager Daniel Wright
Further enabling the development of the MASSLAM range was the company’s commission of the world’s largest Hundegger K2i CNC machine, a massive, robotic timber profiling machine. This was the first machine with the capabilities necessary to perform the highly effective production technique of computerised numerical control (or CNC), which can produce a full 450 mm thickness in one pass, and at 1300mm in depth.
The K2i CNC machine has more than 160 tools, including drills, routers, as well as circular and chain saws, all of varying sizes, and of which the machine’s software known as ‘Cambium’ can automatically select to complete the desired level of profiling.
“Having commissioned the K2i CNC machine, we profile each member to accommodate custom bracketry and fasteners, in accordance with design requirements,” Mr Wright said.
“We have since commissioned our second Hundegger and have a third on the way.”
One example of MASSLAM in action is the UTAS West Park Campus in Burnie, where John Wardle Architects used the range to ensure biophilic design benefits and create a natural, world-class environment for students.
ASH became involved with this project at the request of Fairbrother Construction.
Project manager at Fairbrother Tasmania Dylan Graham was familiar to ASH, having begun working with the company early in their mass timber journey. This collaboration was key to informing the direction ASH would ultimately take the MASSLAM range during its development.
ASH is known for offering internationally competitive columns and beams that are both attractive, Australian-made and certified, which, among other criteria, exceeded the UTAS project’s design requirement of obtaining a Green Building Council of Australia 6-star rating.
While MASSLAM for the UTAS project was delivered efficiently and on time, Mr Wright explained that CNC work can take anywhere from five minutes to eight hours per part if it is not managed.
“At the upper level of this timeframe, the compounding effects on a construction programme would be huge,” he said.
“It would also be an expensive way to deliver a mass timber project. We learned we needed to develop an intimate, in-house knowledge of cost-efficient connection design suited to Australia’s unique and impressive timber species, and that we needed to offer a package that makes this process easy for the engineering and design firms who are considering mass timber.
“We have since developed our own in-house engineering and design team which specialises in mass timber construction and can take a lead role in offering connection and detailing advice.
“The UTAS project was a great start for us, thanks to our pre-existing and collaborative relationship with John Wardle Architects developed over many years.
“Because the team at John Wardle Architects is familiar with our products, they took full advantage of the ability to match MASSLAM with the architectural joinery in this project for a seamless flow of design.
“This project remains one of my personal favourites. Being situated in the city where I was born, it is also the place where MASSLAM ‘found its feet,’ I feel that choosing ASH this process represents a really great story, as it expresses where we have come from and where we are going in our MASSLAM journey, and what amazing results can be achieved in the use of this product range.”
Alongside timber veneers and joinery, the UTAS building utilised MASSLAM45 ‘seen-structural’ 450 x 450 columns alongside an array of mullions to realise the architect’s vision and enable the transformation of the campus. MASSLAM 45 is made from certified Victorian ash and Tasmanian oak.
“UTAS represents the first 450 mm thick mass timber project ever to be machined, anywhere in the world. Prior to this, manufacturers would have been required to ‘CNC’ pieces in halves, before gluing them together – a process known as block-laminating,” explained Wright.