Digital Tools for Innovative Timber Structures Showcase

News Item


In November 2019 the Future Timber Hub at The University of Queensland hosted a Digital Tools for Innovative Timber Structures Showcase which had over 50 public attendees which were mainly made up of members of the Brisbane Computational Design Group.  The attendees included practicing architects, engineers, BIM consultants, and computational designers working at the forefront of digital design in the built environment. 

The research presentations were selected to showcase several innovative new digital tools that has been developed over the last year through the ARC Future Timber Hub Projects:

  1. Alternative uses for under-valued sawmill products in innovative timber structures, and
  2. Prefabrication and digital fabrication strategies for large-scale timber construction

The presentations for the evening included:

Bridget Scanlan: ‘Generative Design of Site-adaptive Affordable Housing’.

Bridget Scanlan is an undergraduate student, investigating computational tools for residential timber design for her final year thesis. She developed new algorithms for automated building floor plate design from site scan data, as well as a new tilt-up prefabricated timber frame system. Bridget is also the inaugural UQ Civil Engineering recipient of the Responsible Wood prize for excellence in timber design.

Aurimas Bukauskas: ‘Inventory-Constrained Structural Design’.

Aurimas Bukauskas is a visiting PhD candidate from the University of Bath, UK. His research has focused on the use of whole timber in construction, and structural design in contexts where available structural material is constrained. For the past 8 months, while being hosted by the Future Timber Hub at UQ, he has collaborated closely on the above Hub Projects, in particular with sharing his expertise in part-assignment heuristics for inventory-constrained design, and digital tools for timber construction. 

Kim Baber: ‘Interactive Funicular Modelling from Utility-Grade Timber’

This presentation showcased the current research of the Future Timber Hub into the use of Inventory Constrained Design with Utility grade timber. The structure utilises an innovative part assignment algorithm that sorts and locates short lengths of structural grade timber extracted from utility grade studs. 

The pavilion, which can be erected in 90 minutes, was showcased at the beginning of the evening.  As a completed 1:1 prototype, key aspects of the process and outcomes of the research were able to be witnessed as a real, tactile and material demonstration. Being able to walk through the space, inspect the details and appreciate the detailed resolution of the project is a powerful way to communicate the research to delegates. It certainly made a powerful first impression.

The pavilion was recently exhibited in Barcelona for the IASS ‘Advanced Manufacturing and Materials’ Competition. It was displayed at UQ school of Architecture from November to December and has now been shipped to Melbourne for subsequent design exhibitions in the New Year. 

Kim Baber explained the impact of this research to industry, "If even a small percentage of utility grade timber can have some extra value added to it through innovative uses of short (but structural grade) lengths of timber extracted from otherwise utility grade members. This can have considerable impact given the quantities of utility grade timber produced in industry."

The project has had invaluable support from Hyne Timber through their donation of all the timber stock used, and the associated scan data used to assist in identifying and analysing the defect locations and characteristics. 

A journal article is due for publication in 2020 in the Springer Nature journal SN Applied Sciences ( The title of the Topical Collection will be: ‘Lightweight structures: Advanced manufacturing and materials for the Built environment’ 

Some comments from the audience:

"It is encouraging to see that Universities particularly UQ are providing modern parametric design education. Keep up the good work.", M Neibling

"Great talks. I got a lot out of it and the presentations were very well done.", M Boynton