The International Mass Timber Conference held in Portland Oregon during March was the largest-ever gathering in the world of cross-laminated timber and other mass wood experts.

The event attracted 1,600 attendees from 30 countries covering the spectrum of forestry, building design, development, prefabrication and construction, along with several delegates from Australia.

With attendance of 500 at the first event 3 years ago, the organisers are now projecting an increase to 10,000 delegates by 2025 to keep pace with the uptake of offsite construction systems.

This phenomenal growth reflects the construction industry acceptance of offsite mass wood buildings and the rate of conversion from steel and concrete structures in a wide range of building types for residential and commercial developments.

In addition, there has been an expansion in design capacity with architects and engineers developing a greater awareness of timber and wood requirements in the design of buildings.

Not only is the construction industry expanding, the supply chain is also responding with new manufacturing plants for cross-laminated timber (CLT), nail-laminated timber, glulam beams and panels, mass plywood panels, dowel-laminated timber, and laminated veneer lumber (LVL).

A conference presentation that indicated how mass wood construction can address the housing crisis in UK was by Paul Williamson, Managing Director Modular Housing for Swan Housing, a London based not-for-profit Association formed in 1994 to provide high-quality and affordable homes to rent and buy.

To solve the housing shortage in UK would require some 300,000 homes per year and using existing building methods would need some 1 million workers at a time when trades are in rapid decline.

To contribute to the solution Swan decided to set up a construction model moving from ‘craft’ to ‘process’ using Lean manufacturing principles to encourage improvements and reach a target of one house completed every day.

By moving from a ‘one-off’ concept to a ‘system’ using DfMA (design for manufacture and assembly) they established a supply process that offers customers a selection of housing with 1.2 million individual options for each house, and an average build time of 16 weeks from order to occupancy.

To enable this mass production approach the houses are fully manufactured in Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) allowing digitally controlled production, with a resulting improvement in productivity of 60% which justifies the higher material cost.

They indicated their next move is robotics in manufacturing to increase production rates and further improve efficiency.

These trends will provide the opportunity of a strong future for mass wood prefabrication and construction in Australia but will need collaboration between the various sectors involved in the process of design, supply, manufacture and construction to ensure the outcomes are successful.

The conference sessions program at Frame 2019 will include some of the world’s leading experts along with local speakers to provide valuable insight into offsite construction topics, along with discussion forums, project panel sessions and selected topic workshops.

Delegates will also learn what’s happening around the world and locally, to be up to date with the latest innovations and building developments emerging as the popularity of timber and wood buildings expands rapidly.

Frame Australia titled ‘Timber Offsite Construction’ will be held on Monday and Tuesday 17-18 June at a new and bigger venue Crown Promenade Melbourne.

For details and Early Bird registration visit the website