The WA Development Application Process is under fire amid concerns that approving the world’s tallest timber tower will lead to “substandard building practices.”
Earlier this month, Wood Central reported that the $350m development known as “C6” was approved after the State Planning Authority overruled the City of South Perth.
The city refused the development because “the height was inconsistent with the planning framework.”
A report to the State said, “various design elements do not achieve compliance with relevant state and local planning policies,” and “as such, the application is recommended for refusal.”
According to the WA Shadow Planning Minister, Neil Thomson, the WA Government’s decision set precedence for “innovative construction methodology” and “sustainability benefits” over building standards.
“The City of South Perth planners report expressed concern about the project based on numerous criteria,” he told Perth Now.
“The engineering report provided by the developer indicated the tower (was) expected to sway up to 34.5cm during a one-in-25-year wind event, remaining just within the Australian standards.”
“A new approach, which may lead to more construction of this type, should have rigorous scrutiny and all risks fully explored and addressed in line with the standards.”
He claims that the State Design Review Panel report, as revealed by Wood Central, “clearly stated the C6 development did not meet the State’s requirements for design excellence and requested modifications to meet the current standard.
“These standards are developed to protect the community’s long-term interests,” Mt Thomson said.
At 187 metres, C6 sort approval for a “Tier 2 building height” with no limit and instead is discretionary.
Melbourne-based developer James Dibble told the design panel that the development “will address the state’s critical housing shortage.”
Mr Dibble’s Grange Development is behind the development, known as C6, the world’s tallest hybrid timber, three metres higher than Atlassian’s new Sydney headquarters.
According to the DA, the proposed development comprises 237 dwellings, a ground floor cade, a rooftop space, communal facilities, a horticultural workshop and an urban farm.
The project has undergone several design iterations and was discussed in at least two design panel meetings before the meeting – in May 2023 and again in July 2023.
The building, comprised of 42% timber, “would set the benchmark for carbon-negative design.”
“Just 600 seeds would produce 7,400 cubic metres of mass timber, which would regrow after being used in the development.”
“You can’t regrow concrete,” he said, with the project team “providing an open source blueprint that utilises hybrid construction methodology to offset carbon within our built environment.”
According to Mr Dibble, the building and construction industry is the world’s largest net emitter and utilising low-embodied carbon building materials is critical in addressing climate change.
His claims are supported by a new UN report published earlier this month. The reports suggest substituting carbon-intensive building materials, like steel and concrete, for bio-based materials, including timber, bamboo, and biomass, will reduce emissions by up to 40% by 2050.
“Steel and concrete are some of the most energy-dense materials in the world to produce, and at the moment, the industry relies on it,” Mr Dibble said in an interview with the Urban Developer last year.
Post-construction, Mr Dibble has committed to sharing its C6 research, design and construction documentation as a call to arms for other developers to take up, evolve and develop the building methodology.
“We as a company are not driven solely by profit: we are driven by the need to urgently reduce our carbon footprint whilst delivering happier, healthier homes,” Mr Dibble said.
“If we can accelerate a paradigm shift into using more renewable building materials such as mass timber in a hybrid nature and see even 10, 15 or 20 per cent of future projects use mass timber in their construction in the next few years, we will have succeeded.”