Timber may not be the most obvious choice for a new recreational centre, but it’s proved worthwhile for the Shire of Pingelly.
Patrick Beale was introduced to timber as a building material at a young age, during visits to his grandfather’s sawmill on the River Thames, just outside London.
Those experiences sparked a lifelong affinity for the product for Mr Beale, who is now director of Advanced Timber Concepts Studio, a commercial design and research practice and teaching entity at the University of Western Australia.
Sitting atop the list of Mr Beale’s most notable recent work is the Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre, which he co-designed with iredale pedersen hook architects.
The centre has received numerous accolades, including a prize at the 2019 World Architecture Festival, and most recently the top honour at the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) Western Australia Awards, with the building now in the running for a national AIA award.
The Shire of Pingelly approached Mr Beale in 2014, with Advanced Timber Concepts Studio reconceptualising the project from design to construction, proposing an all-timber building (laminated veneer lumber).
The studio then developed the pre-fabricated structural frame and managed the fabrication, installation and assembly process, undertaking design in collaboration with iredale pedersen hook to deliver four timber pavilions linked by a curved verandah.
“Timber is the most underrated building material we have,” Mr Beale told Business News.
“It has great acoustic properties – the sports hall at Pingelly is probably the quietest sports hall in WA – and it is a very durable material.
“Timber is also a beautiful material to be around, not just from a visual or aesthetic point of view, but also from the feel and smell of the timber.”
Mr Beale said the environmental properties of timber were also notable: it was the only fully renewable building material, with a construction carbon footprint about 20 per cent of a comparable steel and concrete building.
Yellow stringy bark was used for the bulk of the building, sourced from a plantation near Manjimup.
“Pingelly has a small tax base for such an ambitious project and so the building had to have low running costs and be low maintenance,” Mr Beale said.
“By milling the timber ourselves rather than buying it from a retailer, we could saw to suit the finished dimensions we needed for the project. This meant we got a better return per cubic metre of sawn timber than we would have otherwise.
“There is 1,000 tonnes of log in the building, which translates to 350 cubic metres of sawn timber.”
While concrete and brick had been most builders’ preferred materials during the past 50 years, Mr Beale said interest in timber construction was starting to grow in WA.
Other property developers have since opted for the material, including Yolk Property Group, which is building a six-storey timber-framed office in Fremantle.
“The availability of reliable engineered timber has really changed the whole context of building in timber,” Mr Beale said.
“We now have a set of different timber products that have predictable and reliable properties, so you don’t have to rely on the likes of my grandfather to select timber that will perform as expected as it is sawn and seasoned.”