Maryborough Fire Station Development – A Showpiece of Local, Engineered Timber

What better way to showcase the many qualities of engineered timber, including fire compliance in contemporary building design than a new Fire Station?

This was the view of Hyne Timber when a potential opportunity arose to give the Maryborough Fire and Emergency Service personnel a new, state-of-the-art facility.

The existing facility, an iconic part of Maryborough's history, requires a complete functional overhaul while aiming to restore and retain the 1950's local heritage valued façade.

This challenge attracted the attention of Hyne Timber who, like the first 'Maryborough Fire Brigade' have significant history in the Maryborough region dating back to since 1882.

In addition to a large pine sawmill and head office located in Maryborough, Hyne Timber operates a glue laminating plant (Glulam / GLT), supplying engineered timber solutions to both the domestic and commercial market.

In recognition of the many broader benefits outlined in Hyne Timber's proposal, Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt has announced the regional timber industry driven Market-Led Proposal (MLP) is approved to proceed to Stage 2, 'Detailed Proposal'.

According to Hyne Timber's Manager for Strategic Relations, Katie Fowden, the idea of Australia's first contemporary, engineered timber fire station in Maryborough quickly gained wide spread support.

"From an idea initially mentioned during an innovation forum in Maryborough, every conversation since with various stakeholders including fire engineering experts has seen nothing but support and encouragement to drive this project forward.

"There are so many sustainable, environmental, structural, aesthetic, safety, health and cost benefits to using timber products in contemporary construction which this project will help to further showcase.

"However, first and foremost, we have been given a unique and exciting opportunity to demonstrate we can deliver a state-of-the-art facility for the fire service and emergency personnel who are effectively, our client throughout this next stage of the proposal.

"This opportunity has been enabled by the Queensland Government's Market-Led Proposal pathway to put forward innovative ideas for the greater good of the community.

"Our project team includes The University of Queensland who we have been a research partner with for five years. Without existing research partnerships such as this, innovative engineered timber solutions and our proposal wouldn’t be possible." Mrs Fowden said.

Deputy Director for UQ's Centre for Future Timber Structures, Dr Dilum Fernando said this is a significant opportunity to drive an increase in timber-based construction,

"The Centre for Future Timber Structures is a Centre of Excellence, established to drive the future development of timber in the Australian built environment.

"This partnership is welcomed by the Centre to support innovative solutions and associated testing where solutions are not currently commercially available.

"Hyne Timber have been research partners with UQ for some years and it is important to see research aims achieve tangible benefits to the broader community.

"This is what we can uniquely contribute through the Maryborough Fire Station and Emergency Response Centre project and we look forward to the journey ahead." Said Dr Fernando.

Other unique partners include Baber Studio, Hutchinson Builders and XLam.

Principal Architect, Kim Baber of Baber Studio is a Gottstein Fellow. This fellowship is awarded to individuals in the industry who demonstrate a commitment to the fields of forestry or the forest products industry through academic and professional achievements and career goals. Mr Baber was awarded the Australian Institute of Architects' 'Queensland Emerging Architect' award in 2015.

XLam will produce the Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) components required for this project, subject to accepted design work and approval to proceed to Stage 3 (final design and construction), from Queensland grown and processed timber.

XLam also has a brick façade retention specialist engineer who brings a wealth of experience, working to restore and retain complex brick façades in Edinburgh, Scotland. There are further benefits of adjoining a lighter weight, versatile timber building when protecting older, valued structures.

Sustainability is one of the major drivers for increasing the use of timber in construction, further supported by respected, independent environmental groups such as Planet Ark.

Hyne Timber's engineered softwood products are exclusively sourced from plantation pine grown in Queensland and is one of the strongest species of pine in the world.

While Mass Timber Construction isn't new, it remains in its infancy in Australia with the National Construction Code only being amended in 2016 to allow the use of timber in tall buildings up to 25 metres high (typically 8 storeys).

Significant research was undertaken prior to this amendment with consideration of constructability, cost, and fire safety studies. The Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council were members of the Australian Building Codes Board technical committee.

According to Dr Cristian Maluk, lecturer of structural fire safety engineering at The University of Queensland, Mass Timber Construction can have the same or better reaction to fire as concrete and steel constructions which is why its use for the Maryborough Fire Station and Emergency Response Centre is met with support.

"Design solutions including engineered timber products have demonstrated to be fire safe and viable.

"The market for timber buildings is expected to imminently grow following the fire safety engineering developments used for the design of timber structures." Dr Maluk concluded.

According to international reports, design solutions such as fire-protected timber, the use of cavity barriers and automated sprinkler systems for example have declared engineered timber buildings around the world as some of the safest the compliance inspectors had ever assessed.

Fire Stations have been built wholly or predominantly from engineered timber in countries including France, Austria, Norway and the US. These examples demonstrate how the material can successfully be used for the construction of this building type.

The Maryborough Fire Station project, being a public asset, is an opportunity for innovative, engineered timber construction solutions to be more broadly understood to increase the uptake of sustainable buildings into the future.

This project also provides a real case study for Construction Skills Queensland to ensure the future of construction training is relevant for the increasing demand for sustainable, naturally built environments.

Given Maryborough is colloquially known as the 'Timber City', there is no better location for this project to be centred, seeing years of research and collaboration coming to fruition.

It is also in accordance with the Fraser Coast Regional Council's progressive Wood Encouragement Policy, the first Council in Queensland to introduce such a policy at the start of the year.

The broader timber industry and extensive value chain which employs thousands of people throughout regional areas can leverage and grow from increased demand for responsibly grown timber for sustainable construction solutions.

The next stage of the proposal could take up to 12 months to complete, engaging with a broad range of stakeholders and consultants in addition to ongoing innovation research support with the UQ Centre for Future Timber Structures.