South Australia’s Tech Colleges of Future Built in Mass Timber

New colleges are part of a green switch, with the state government targeting a 50% reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2030 and a pledge to achieve net zero by 2050.

Thu 20 Jun 24


South Australia is backing mass timber to build the next generation of education facilities, with the state government constructing two new technical colleges—one at Mount Gambier and the other at Tonsley —out of cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glue-laminated timber (or glulam), all certified under the PEFC and Responsible Wood certification schemes.

Part of a $208m commitment that will see five new colleges constructed across South Australia, the two colleges are not just a testament to the state’s commitment to education but also to its local industry. They will use glulam sourced from Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH) and CLT from Timberlink’s new NexTimber facility—Australia’s first CLT and glulam manufacturing plant.

Built by Sarah Constructions, who laid the concrete foundations last month, the project is South Australia’s first mass timber project that uses CLT from the new NexTimber plant. “Additionally, we’re incorporating glue laminated timber (GLT) from Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH) for key structural elements like columns, beams and trusses,” said Adrian Esplin, Sarah Construction’s CEO.

“NeXTimber’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at Tarpeena will be supplying the CLT for these projects,” according to Nathan Paine, the South Australian Forest Products Association CEO, who said “every cubic meter for finished softwood storing 718kg of CO2-e, the only building product that is carbon positive.”

Premier Peter Malinauskas’s office said the new colleges have some of South Australia’s most high-profile employers as partners – including Australian submarine company ASC and Flinders Factory of the Future, “ensuring students get the education they need to be fast-tracked into secure, well-paid careers.”

“Australian submarine company ASC is the employer partner of the Tonsley Technical College and will provide employment pathways for school students into defence industries. ASC has a skilled workforce of more than 1,900 employees and ongoing workforce demand,” Premier Malinauskas’s office said.

“This valuable employer partnership will also bolster the advanced manufacturing and engineering pathway offered at the technical college, helping to ensure students are workplace ready when they complete their studies.” In addition, the Motor Trade Association (MTA) and the Master Builders Association (MBA)—will also join forces to provide employment opportunities and apprenticeships with host employers across the state.

In July 2022, Cox Architecture realised designs for the world’s tallest timber hotel at 187 Victoria Square in Adelaide.. (Image credit: Cox Architecture)
In July 2022, Cox Architecture realised designs for the world’s tallest timber hotel at 187 Victoria Square in Adelaide. The South Australian government is looking to capitalise on the state’s timber production to become a hotspot for mass timber construction. (Image credit: Cox Architecture)

South Australia is emerging as a major hub for mass timber buildings, with Premier Malinauskas committed to building “a smart, sustainable and inclusive path” to taller” and more complex timber buildings.

That includes Adelaide, the city of churches, where developers are already looking to cross-laminated timber for mid-rise construction, including the iconic Adelaide Oval, which turned to mass timber produced by Xlam to build a new hotel connected to the stadium.


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