WA Backs BtR Models: Perth’s Largest Timber Frame Complex to Rise

Construction on the new project will start in the first half of 2024

Tue 09 Apr 24


Bluerock Projects will build a new $25 million build-to-rent apartment project in Perth after DevelopmentWA sold a key piece of land that will go into a high-profile 180-hectare urban renewal project known as “Midland.”

Dubbed “Western Australia’s largest timber frame complex,” it is seen as the next step in the Roger Cook-led state government’s effort to scale up build-to-rent delivery across the state. The Urban Developer reports on a host of affordable projects in the works.

The four-storey development will comprise 51 apartments and follows DeHavilland Apartments, also developed by Bluerock Projects, the first 6-Star NABERS Energy-rated building delivered in the WA market.

Like DeHavilland Apartments, the new development, Tuohy Gardens, “will showcase our timber construction capability,” according to BlueRock Projects director Stuart Hawley.

“It will also further emphasise large-scale timber development projects’ environmental and cost benefits.”

Construction will commence in the first half of 2024. According to Kylee Schoonens, the principal of the national architectural firm Rothelowman, the development “has been designed to support the influx of people who are part of the flourishing town centre.” Mr Hawley has long supported large-scale timber projects and spoke to WoodSolutions before the DeHavilland Apartments development.

C6 in Perth is part of growing number of mass timber skyscrapers that are rising across Australia. According to the Green Building Council of Australia, timber buildings are growing across the country. (Photo Credit: Grange Developments)
Timber projects are on the rise across Perth, with c6 set to be one of the tallest mass timber skyscrapers in the world. According to the Green Building Council of Australia, timber buildings are growing across the country. (Photo Credit: Grange Developments)

At the time, he hoped “the knowledge and performance of timber framing and mass timber will grow and expand timber applications in construction and development in WA and nationally.”

That project used engineered laminated veneer lumber (or LVL) Veneer for beams, columns and joists, whilst traditional stud framing was used for the walls.

Significantly, Tuohy Gardens will be the first build-to-rent project in the Perth suburb of Midland, which Mr Hawley said “made sense given the ongoing demand for rental properties in the area.”

Build-to-rent is booming across Australia, with JLL reporting that 2,000 build-to-rent apartments were under construction in 2022.

That is expected to double by next year, with Steve Mann from the Urban Development Institute reporting that “it is an important part of the future housing mix.”

Last week, Japanese mass timber giant Sumitomo entered into a $1.2 billion joint venture to drive build-to-rent mass timber projects in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Auckland.

A render of the 50 Quay Street project in Brisbane – the first of Sumitomo’s build to rent projects in the Australian marketplace, which is supported by the Queensland state government’s affordable build-to-rent program. (Photo Credit: Sumitomo Forestry)

Meanwhile, Wood Central reported last year that Brett Mason, CEO of Built, is working with the Liverpool City Council in Sydney’s West to drive mass timber in build-to-rent projects.

Mass timber construction systems are increasingly being considered to drive the next surge in mid-rise and high-rise construction – largely thanks to their flexibility in construction timeframes, cost benefits, and added carbon benefits.

Last month, Wood Central reported that Jonathan Pearce, the US-based Head of Investments, Office, and Life Sciences at Ivanhoé Cambridge, said the pivot to timber allows asset managers far greater flexibility in turning around buildings quickly whilst also avoiding dangerous 10-15-year project timeframes.

Jonathan Pearce, Head of Investments, Office and Life Science at Ivanhoe Cambridge, explained why Global Asset Managers are now turning to mass timber to de-risk real estate portfolios. Footage from the International Mass Timber Conference in Portland, Oregon – footage courtesy of @woodcentralau.

“From a risk management perspective, this just makes sense,” Mr Pearce said, “traditionally we would build multi-billion dollar steel projects. The problem with these projects is that we could start a project in 2012, put a shovel in 2017, finish the first stage in 2020, and start the second building that will be finished in 2025.”

“So what does that mean? It can take 15 years to finish a project,” Mr Pearce said before saying that mass timber buildings allow asset managers to play in “smaller and illiquid markets because the cheque size is so much smaller…allowing us to turn these buildings around quicker.”


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