Mass Timber Building to Rise Beside Brisbane’s Plywood House

Wed 28 Jun 23


The site of Queensland’s oldest funeral business will be given a new life under plans for a mass timber building at the Brisbane landmark address.  

The Urban Developer reports that Alex Gow Funerals sold the inner-city site last year in a $14.3-million deal, six decades after moving to the 5272 square metre building at 56 Breakfast Creek Road.

The site is familiar to many readers as it borders ‘Plywood House’, which was, until 2014, the long-term home of the Engineered Wood Products of Australasia (EWPAA).

Beside Plywood House – at 3 Dunlop Street – once also stood “Timber House” – at 5 Dunlop Street – originally the home of Timber Queensland and TRADAC – Queensland’s Timber Research and Development Advisory Council.

Development Site next to Plywood House (Image Source: Bing Maps)

The EWPAA is the peak industry association for engineered wood products across the Asia-Pacific region – it is appropriate that the neighbouring site is the latest commercial office in Brisbane to embrace mass-timber construction methods.

The EWPAA CEO, Gavin Matthew, told Wood Central that the organisation is thrilled with the development.

“The engineered wood product (EWP) industry visionaries from the past would be very pleased to see that today’s designers and developers are embracing renewable engineered wood products and constructing new innovative buildings across Australia in increasing numbers.”

“It’s a big part of the solution to store carbon long-term and reduce emissions in our built environment – they knew that then and we are starting to appreciate it now.”

The new owner – Asia Pacific Internet Development Trust (APIDT) – has earmarked the site for its new headquarters.

Wood Central reports that it filed plans with the Brisbane City Council on June 19, 2023, for a four-storey 3891 square metre L-shaped office building constructed of mass timber with a glazed facade.

The development will impact three properties – 56 Breakfast Creek Road, 62 Breakfast Creek Road in Newstead and 1 Dunlop Street in Bowen Hills and will allow for 80 workers across multiple tenancies.

The funeral parlour, which had operated on the site since the early 1960s and closed its doors earlier this year, will be demolished to make way for the development.

Updated building renders were provided to the Brisbane City Council last week. (Image credit: Brisbane City Council DA Application)

APIDT was established to fund Internet development initiatives in the Asia Pacific region, improving the community’s capability to build an open, global, stable, and secure Internet.

Its trustees include the not-for-profit Asia Pacific Network Information Centre, the internet registry for 56 regional nations, which will be the anchor tenant.

According to the development summary, “The L-shaped mass timber building connects at higher levels into bushland to the rear of the site, providing a subtropical landscape within the city, withdrawal from the surrounds.” (Image credit: Brisbane City Council DA Application)
Mass timber was chosen due to its upfront carbon reduction

Targeting a 6-Star Green Star, 5.5 Star NABERS and WELL Gold accreditation, the proposed office development is “envisioned as a cutting-edge mass timber construction … committed to utilising leading sustainability principles”.

The developers confirm that the project will use “locally sourced pine manufactured in Australia.”

“Timber is a viable low carbon alternative to concrete and highly desirable as a property investment,” the planning report said.

“By showcasing world-class sustainability, the proposal targets a minimum 20 per cent reduction in upfront carbon emissions through design and material selection.

Development plans submitted to the Brisbane City Council showing the North Boundary of the new building (Image credit: Brisbane City Council DA Application)

“Conceived as a holistic response to sustainability, landscape and new methods of working, the building envisions an architecture which is expressive in its aesthetic quality and responsive in its design and planning.”

Natural ventilation strategies such as “night purge ventilation” would also be incorporated—a passive cooling method that removes stale air at night to cool the building’s thermal mass—to reduce the building’s operational energy use.

Ventilation plans have been supplied to the Brisbane City Council. (Image credit: Brisbane City Council DA Application)

Vertical greenery growing and eventually enveloping a perforated mesh trellis creating a layered facade, also would provide additional shade and insulation to the building.

As well as customised workspaces for up to 80 tenants, the proposed development would include basement car parking, various communal and social spaces, and integrated landscaping.

Street activation from Breakfast Creek Road and Dunlop Street. (Image Credit: Brisbane City Council DA Application)

The O’Neill architecture designed scheme has a central indoor-outdoor auditorium space and recreational area.

On the third level, “sky terraces”, additional recreation space and a barbecue area are provided for workers.

The building has provisions for green space, including sky terraces and balconies. (Image Credit: Brisbane City Council DA Application)

The architecture “blends into the exposed phyllite rock face and subtropical vegetation endemic to the Montpelier Hill site”.

“The building owner and occupants work in a virtual world, providing internet protocol,” it said. “Everyone connected in the Asia-Pacific region experiences their work in their everyday lives.

“The design for the building reflects this relationship … the occupant’s connection to the world around them, which is concealed yet omnipresent.”

The practice is behind the ‘Acacia Avenue’ – a 32-storey retirement living development proposal on the Gold Coast and ‘Rivermakers’ – the restoration of a century-old heritage precinct in inner Brisbane.

The EWPAA left Plywood House in 2014

In March 2014, the EWPAA moved from ‘Plywood House’ to its current location in Eagle Farm.

Wood Central’s Senior Editor Jim Bowden interviewed Simon Dorries – current CEO of Responsible Wood – who, at the time, was General Manager of the EWPAA.

Simon Dorries said the shift was one of efficiency and consolidation.

“All refurbishments were carried out by staff members, and building materials for the renovations were donated by EWPAA members.”

“It consolidates all administration and laboratory testing facilities at the one site.”

“EWPAA can now be justly described as providing the most up-to-date timber testing services in Australia, and possibly Australasia,” Dorries said.

The EWPAA has a proud history from May 1934, when nine Queensland manufacturers founded the Queensland Veneer and Plywood Board. It is funded voluntarily by veneer, plywood and mass timber manufacturers.

A picture of the Plywood House being opened by the EWPAA Board of Directors (Photo Credit: EWPAA)

According to Mr Dorries, the site that Plywood House now stands on was a boarding house during the Second World War. 

“The Newstead area was one huge US Navy base,” Mr Dorries said.

The official opening at the EWPAA office and laboratory at Eagle Farm in Brisbane with Ross
Hampton, former CEO of the Australian Forest Products Association; Rob de Fegley, former National President, Institute of Foresters of Australia (now Forestry Australia), Senator Richard Colbeck, former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, who dedicated the building; Peter Volker, former Forestry Adviser to the Senator, and Simon Dorries, former General Manager of the EWPAA.
Brisbane has emerged as a leader in mass-timber construction

In April 2023, a South Australian delegation travelled to Queensland to tour four recently constructed mass timber buildings, including 25 King Street – formerly the world’s tallest timber engineering building – and Monterery Apartments – which for a time was the southern hemisphere’s tallest all-timber building.

In 2022 Gardner Vaughan Group (developer of Monterey Apartments) produced a time-lapse for Monterey. Footage courtesy of @gardnervaughan7418

And earlier this month, Wood Central exclusively revealed that the Queensland State Government has identified mass timber as its ‘material of choice’ for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Athletes Village at Hamilton Northshore.

“We can see timber as a building material has great potential in achieving the government’s commitment to a climate-positive Games,” Bart Mellish, Assistant Minister to the Premier for Veterans’ Affairs and the Public Sector, said in a keynote address ‘Pathway to the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games’ at the Timber Queensland symposium.

Hamilton Northshore is the site of the Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games Athletes Village (Photo credit
Hamilton Northshore is the site of the Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games Athletes Village (Photo credit

According to Mellish, timber is increasingly recognised as a central plank – or a support beam – driving the international response to climate change.

“We are seeing more public awareness that timber can substitute for steel, concrete, and aluminum. Timber can perform better than its alternatives.”

“Using timber for the athletes’ village could achieve a dual legacy as a sustainable venue and as lasting affordable accommodation.”

The market for CLT is expected to triple over the next seven years, with a significant driver of growth expected to come from commercial office construction in the Asia Pacific region.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


Related Articles