Ceres CLT and Mass Timber House, Victoria

Ceres house is a design collaboration between Melbourne based architects level-ak, Vistek Engineers, Hyne Timber (Glulam structural elements), and Xlam Australia (Cross Laminated Timber/CLT). The project is located in Ceres, a small town in Victoria, near Geelong. It is the perfect setting for level-ak’s thoughtful design.

The residence responds to the context of its beautiful rural setting. A cluster of joined ‘pavilions’ combine to create the overall building. The structure’s shape reflects the form of the boulders and ruins which are longstanding features of the landscape.

Ceres CLT and Mass Timber House. A geometric wooden house under construction in grassy field

Achieving a sustainable design with mass timber

Through the building design

Essential to the client’s brief was to achieve a structure with sustainability at its core. Elements of passive house design have been used throughout the building. Mass timber provides the ideal building envelope to reduce heat loss (caused by thermal bridging and drafts). The thermal mass of the concrete base can retain and release the energy that is naturally provided by the sun. This makes the home far less reliant on added heating and cooling.

Through the materials used

The CLT and GLT also provide excellent environmental credentials due to their low embodied energy. Crucially, both the GLT and CLT feedstock is made from locally grown renewable plantation timber. As such, they have a much lower carbon footprint than conventional materials such as steel, aluminium or concrete. In addition, CLT and GLT contain no harmful toxic chemicals.

Loose stones on the site from a previous structure were also reimagined and reused. The design recycled them as support for the internal stairs – juxtaposing the old and new in a unified architectural vision.

Birds eye view of Ceres CLT and mass timber house, structure is divided into 5 pavilions

The advantages of mass timber in construction

Material properties

The Ceres house makes full use of two key mass timber building materials: GLT and CLT. Both GLT (Glue Laminated Timber or Glulam) and CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) are made of layers of timber adhered together. However, the manufacturers configure the timber in different ways to achieve different properties.

In CLT the timber layers cross each other, as the name suggests. The wood grain in each layer runs at right angles to the last. This gives it strength in two directions and makes it ideal for floor spans and load-bearing walls. The Ceres design used this feature to full effect, achieving large open areas with the CLT supplied by XLam.

In contrast, the layers in GLT elements have their wood grain aligned to run in one direction. This gives them high strength in one direction, perfectly suited for use as load-bearing components such as columns and beams. At the Ceres home, GLT from Hyne was used for the portal frames at the core of the structure. This was the ideal choice to resist lateral loads from the wind.

Construction capabilities

The Ceres house fully exploited the potential mass timber has to create challenging geometric structures. The design team was able to virtually realise the structure as a 3D model. Through modelling, the team could resolve structural and construction issues before building started. The timber suppliers could then fabricate the mass timber components with CNC (Computer Numerical Control) technology to millimetre precision. This allowed the builders on site to assemble the prefabricated sections without issues. The model and CNC provided the level of accuracy required to achieve the design intent.

The versatility of GLT and CLT used together enabled the architects to go far beyond conventional architectural forms.

Working together to push boundaries

Using mass timber, level-ak were able to create a house with a complex geometry that fully reacts to, and harmonises with, its environment.

The structure presented many challenges but these were resolved through a deeply embedded level of collaboration throughout the project. The architect and client brought engineers, suppliers, and contractors on board early in the project. This allowed the team to best take advantage of each others’ experience and skill set.

The team has shared their experiences on the project with the industry at panel talks including Frame Australia’s Timber Offsite Construction Conference in Melbourne in June.

For more info on our work with CLT and mass timber, click here or have a look at our news page.

Looking across CLT walkway from one section of the mass timber house under construction to another

Key personnel on Ceres CLT and Mass Timber house

Nadine Samaha, Principal Architect, level-ak

Nathan Benbow, Senior Engineer, Vistek Engineers

Tyson Infanti, Contracts Manager, XLam

Robert Mansell, Business Development Manager, Hyne Timber

Ceres CLT and Mass timber house under construction, with sloped walls and roof with staggered levels

All images courtesy of Hyne Timber.