Australia’s first engineered timber office building

Construction of Australia’s first, and currently the world’s tallest engineered timber commercial building, International House Sydney, is now complete at Barangaroo South in Sydney and the building is preparing to welcome its new commercial and retail tenants.

Designed by Tzannes architects for Lendlease, International House Sydney is a distinctive new element in the city, establishing a warm and welcoming connection between the new precinct of Barangaroo and the historic heart of the city.

The most striking aspect of International House Sydney is that six above ground levels are constructed entirely from engineered or cross laminated timber, including doors, columns, walls, roof, lift shafts, egress stairs and bracing bays, supported by a single ground retail level of conventional concrete structure.

The building explores a new form of beauty, one of unique and integral character, with outstanding green credentials. It expresses with aesthetic potency the fully exposed timber structure, stripped of additional layers of finishing materials.

This is architecture that is detailed with rigour, made to last and not simply for ‘aesthetic effect’. Its intention is to become a long-term appreciating commercial asset, understood for its intrinsic, enduring beauty.

Around 3,500 cubic metres of sustainably grown and recycled timber were used in construction. By not using concrete, thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases were avoided.

Importantly, International House Sydney demonstrates that the commercial real estate market will accept mass timber construction as a viable and exciting alternative to conventional concrete construction, increasing opportunity for architecture to contribute more effectively to a lower carbon and more sustainable future for urban development around the world.


International House Sydney was conceived to add amenity and delight to the experience of the public realm, to demonstrate leadership in environmentally sustainable design and foster wellbeing. The entirely natural and renewable timber material used structurally is innovative technology for projects with demonstrated prospects for its adoption across an increasing number of commercial applications around the world.

Located on the boundary of the Barangaroo South precinct along Hickson Road and flanked to the north and south by pedestrian bridges that connect back to the city, International House Sydney defines the street edge of the Barangaroo South commercial and retail precinct with a spectacular two storey colonnade designed from recycled iron bark solid timber. The colonnade leads to the southern façade forming the covered public plaza and connects to Mercantile Walk with another significant covered public space providing additional opportunities for activities within a protected environment.


The architecture is underpinned by place-making concepts including: establishing pedestrian orientated scale; reinforcing the urban form of the street and pedestrian networks; creating special conditions at corners to improve pedestrian amenity and experience; establishing a simple, understated aesthetic character as a counterpoint to other architecture in the precinct to enhance legibility; and interiors that provide fresh and healthy working environment for occupants.

The design turns the limitations of structural engineered mass timber and recycled hardwood to advantage, establishing a strong visual presence and legible load path through the building column and beam construction. The double height colonnade bracing columns made from recycled iron bark evoke memories of the forest origins of timber, these ancient trees respected in their new industrial use to further distinguish the architecture and its contribution to the design of the public domain.

Planet Ark and others indicate positive physiological and psychological benefits for occupants of timber interiors. The smell, tactile and visual stimuli of timber deliver a more natural and healthy indoor environment. Its feeling and natural warmth has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, particularly when coupled with improved indoor air quality and beautiful aesthetics.

Prefabrication of the structure provided significant reduction in construction time and added additional quality control achieved by off site factory manufacture. The full prefabrication of the timber components was delivered through a comprehensive 3D digital documentation process, co-ordinating every penetration, connection and interface prior to procurement.

International House Sydney is an exemplar of placemaking architecture that reduces negative environmental impacts in the built environment. It provides an ongoing store for carbon pointing towards the future of commercial building construction throughout the world.

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