James Cook Uni Kicks Off $50m Mass Timber Build in Cairns

The James Cook University CTEC is the first building that will be constructed as part of Cairn's new $350m Far North Queensland Health Innovation Precinct which was renamed the Dugurrdja Precinct.

Mon 04 Mar 24


Work has commenced on the second stage of the James Cook University CTEC, the first building as part of Cairn’s new $350m Far North Queensland Health Innovation Precinct, now known as Dugurrdja Precinct.

Last week, Besix Westpac was appointed as the head contractor for the works, the fifth project for the university, with stage 2 works developing a purpose-designed, four-storey, 3,500m square metre teaching and research facility.

In a first for the region, the building will feature a cross-laminated and glulam timber superstructure, with Wade Cummins, General Manager of BESIX Watpac QLD, NT & NZ, “excited to contribute to the development of the CTEC, a facility that will undoubtedly shape the future of tropical research and education.”

The $50 million project is the first piece of the puzzle in the Far North Queensland Health Innovation Precinct, with the centre to stand adjacent to a new 32-bed surgical centre near the Cairns Hospital campus.

Designed by Wilson Architects, in collaboration with Clarke & Prince Architects and BESIX Watpac, it will become Cairns’s largest mass timber building, quick on the heels of the university’s $100m Engineering and Innovation Places building, which opened for students last month. 

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More than 650 cubic metres of cross-laminated timber will be used in the build, T3+ treated panels, which is now a completely clear, H3 equivalent, codemark certified, proprietary treatment. The clear treatment will provide an aesthetically pleasing finish without the colour staining that has become expected of treated timber whilst also providing a proven, durable product for the tropical environment of Far North Queensland. (Image Credit: Renders provided to Wood Central from BESIX Watpac via Wilson Architects).
The CTEC will target a Green Star rating.

In June, JCU released updated artists’ impressions of the CTEC building; it revealed a striking four-storey glulam and cross-laminated timber building which, according to BESIX Watpac, “will be innovative in design to achieve Green Star recognition.”

Under the Green Star Responsible Products Framework, timber can contribute to Green Star credits in three main areas: Responsible Structure, Responsible Envelope and Responsible Finishes.

The use of timber positively impacts several other credits, including Responsible Procurement, Exposure to Toxins, Upfront Carbon Emissions, Lifecycle Impacts and Circular Economy. These credits encourage using responsible, healthy, positive, and circular products.

Wood Central can now reveal that the package to supply the glulam beams and cross-laminated timber panels has been awarded to Australian-based Xlam (for the cross laminated timber panels) and Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (or ASH) for glulam, making it 100% Australian Grown and Manufactured from Responsible Wood certified timber.

Addressing regional and remote Australia’s health needs.

The building will house a multi-disciplinary clinic on the ground floor, with teaching and research facilities on the floors above. 

It will also be a meeting point where health and medical staff can connect with JCU’s engineers, data scientists, and IT specialists.

JCU Vice Chancellor Simon Briggs said the CTEC will be a “game-changing building.”

Speaking at the site of the new building, Professor Briggs said that the build will “create a centre for clinical teaching, training and research in medicine, allied health and related disciplines – all aligned to the needs of this region and its health workforce.”

Professor Biggs acknowledged the support of current and previous governments in addressing the region’s health challenges.

“This region has extensive practical, technical and cultural expertise in living and working in regional and remote Australia.”

“We see great potential in applying that knowledge and emerging technologies to create a healthier future for rural, regional, remote and indigenous communities.”

Traditional Owners bestow the title ‘the Dugurrdja Precinct’

Late last year, Professor Briggs revealed the new name for the Far North Queensland Health and Innovation Precinct, bestowed by local Traditional Owners.

Traditional Owners at the site of the new Dugurrdja Precinct. (Photo Credit: Supplied by James Cook University).

Gimuy Walubara Yidinji Elder Henrietta Marrie presented the new name for the Precinct in a ceremony on site – the Dugurrdja Precinct.

“In our Yidinji language, Dugurrdja is the name of the Milky Way – our galaxy – which we see in the southern sky at night, arching from the sea to the mountains,” Ms Marrie said.

“Dugurrdja represents the knowledge, the songlines and stories that flow through this country.

“We’re proud to be partners in this project, so we chose a name that represents the coming together of knowledge.”

“The Milky Way can be seen by people around the world.”

“The work that happens here will reach out around the world, and it will take with it the Yidinji name of Dugurrdja, so everyone will know where it comes from,” Ms Marrie said.

“We welcome people to this place, but we also ensure it is protected under Dugurrdja.”

Leena Singh, the CEO of the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service (CHHHS), said the partnership underpins the development of the health, research and education precinct at Cairns Hospital.

More than $350 million has been committed to developing the Cairns Hospital, which includes a new surgical centre, emergency department and mental health building.

“As we continue to grow, partnerships with providers such as JCU are important in attracting, retaining and developing high health and research talent to the region,” Ms Singh said.


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