These days it seems that as soon as sustainable building techniques reach new levels, they climb even higher. And this time it is Australia’s turn to lead the way following the announcement that the world’s tallest mass timber skyscraper will be constructed in the West Australian capital of Perth.

Named for its address at 6 Charles Street, the 50-storey Grange Development project won’t simply be carbon neutral either, but carbon negative as it will store more carbon than it uses. Nearly half the materials (42%) used to construct C6 will be timber taken from 580 trees. The 7300 cubic metres of hybridized timber – a cross-laminated as well as glued-laminated product known as Glulam – will be an essential structural element, going into building the tower’s beams, studs, floor panels, joinery and linings.

Created by Australian architecture firm Fraser and Partners, C6 will be 180 metres high, taller than Sydney’s Atlassian hybrid timber headquarters currently under construction. It will also cast quite the shadow over the world’s current tallest wooden structure located in the US, the 25-storey, 86.6-metre-high Ascent MKE in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Approved only this month, the C6 is drawing further attention to the capabilities of environmentally friendly building techniques at a time when the built environment is charged with the task of reducing its own environmental impact. Data from the Green Building Council puts commercial structures as contributing as much as 40% to global energy related carbon emissions. Materials and construction alone account for 11% of that total. In Australia, buildings account for over 50% of electricity consumption and emit around a quarter of greenhouse gases, according to The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

Why timber?

Data from the CEFC’s Timber Building Program shows that the use of engineered timber can cut construction-related embodied carbon emissions by as much as 75% compared to steel and concrete. What’s more, the level of carbon in hewed timber increases over time which is of even greater value to the climate. This is especially the case when it comes to every-day uses for timber such as electricity poles and floorboards.

The Timber Building Program has been established specifically to help reduce Australia’s emissions and contribute to the country’s net zero by 2050 goals, while supporting efforts to increase knowledge, skill and experience around timber-based building and its logistical requirements.

The C6 looks to certainly be doing its part: on the developer’s website, Grange Development founder James Dibble is quoted as saying “all the timber in C6 will be regrown in just two hours and 29 minutes from one region alone. You can’t grow concrete, C6 is the future of sustainable cities.” 

Features galore

C6 is to offer 200 residential units along with its office component. As one would expect, all power will be generated by 100% renewable energy and delivered by an embedded system. Those who live here will not even have to worry about buying their own cars: C6 comes with its own 80-strong fleet of Tesla Model 3s to be shared between residents and charged via EV ports in each parking bay. As for the rooftop, it will be covered in an edible and floral garden alongside an entertaining and dining area.

Leading the way

As yet C6 has no set date for completion. However, the nuts and bolts of the concept – all technical materials and plans – are being made available in the meantime with a view to inspiring others, the chief architect’s hope being to “challenge the industry to future projects better”.

Other projects in Australia on University Student Accommodation in Bundoora, which is using primarily using cross-laminated timber (CLY) and Collingwood’s T3 by Hines, a commercial structure which was one of the first to use CLT in its construction.