Tall timber a feature

THERE'S a town in the WA wheatbelt which, despite its size, is punching well above its weight in the innovation stakes. Pingelly, located 158 kilometres east south-east of Perth, is putting the finishing touches on its new recreation and cultural centre, which was officially opened at the end of August. It's not just the design of the multi-purpose building which is unique - it's the material it has been built from. Constructed from yellow stringy bark, the Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre (PRACC) is the biggest purpose-built wooden building in WA. It has helped to consolidate the sporting facilities into the one spot in the town, which has about 800 residents and a total of about 1200 people within the local shire. While it has been a relatively long road,with the idea first floated about 12 years ago, the completion of the PRACC is also a story of persistence, perseverance and thinking outside the box.

According to shire president Bill Mulroney a survey was conducted in the local community in about 2006 and it was evident in the responses that people saw an upgrade of the ageing recreation facility as a priority The pavilion was built in about 1962, while the community centre was last added to in about 1983,and Mr Mulroney said they didn't really suit the needs of the community Various community consultations were held with committees, looking at the options available in building a new facility, but costs looked like being too prohibitive. The plan was put on the backburner for a few years, before being resurrected by members of the community who approached council to once again consider building a new centre. A focus group was then selected, consisting of people within the community and sporting groups, to investigate what was available in other adjoining shires, and what could potentially work in Pingelly Three or four years ago they came back with a proposal.

Within the town, the tennis courts were separate to the bowling greens, while the basketball and netball courts were in a separate location again, and only football, cricket and hockey were all utilising the local oval. The council agreed an upgraded facility was required, to be located at the oval in the east of the town, and approached the Federal government for National Stronger Regions Funding, from which they managed to secure $3.8 million. Of the $8.5m estimated total cost of the facility, another third was secured through grants and subscriptions, while the Pingelly Shire chipped in $3m. But it wasn't simply a matter of wanting to replicate the old pavilion - the PRACC focus group was open to all manner of options when it came to building materials, comparing a bricks and mortar building to one created from Colorbond, concrete slabs or even timber. Mr Mulroney said they sought advice from

The University of WAs Advanced Timber Concepts (ATC) department, which came back with a plan based on using timber yellow stringy bark to be precise. This was based on it being a durable timber with a high resin content which was pest, rodent and termite resistant, and its potential availability as it was being grown in a plantation near Manjimup by the Forest Products Commission (FPC). The focus group also travelled to Melbourne to research the timber, visiting a building called 'Library at the Dock' which was Australia's first sixstar Green Star council owned building constructed from modern engineered mass timber. Here they saw that wood had proven health and well-being benefits, as well as being cost effective and quick to construct. Plans were drawn up by architectural firm Iredale Pedersen Hook (IPH) in early 2016, which indicated that about 400 tonne of the yellow in Pingelly

stringy bark would be required to build the spectacular building. The FPC agreed to log about lOOOt. which once sawn and kiln-dried, resulted in about 350 cubic metres of the timber.

Mr Mulroney said the PRACC was a very tall building which stood out, although that height did present some challenges in the construction of the building. The large structural framework had to be built from New Zealand timber as there wasn't anything long enough available in Australia to produce the required length, then it was prepared in Melbourne using a laminated veneer lumber technique which is not done anywhere in WA. The framework was then transported over the Nullarbor transported over the Nullarbor on 16 road trains from Melbourne to Pingelly A sod turning ceremony was held at the site on April 11, 2017, before works by Esperance-based building company Sime Building and Construction began. And barely 16 months later, on August 31 this year, an official opening has been held at the near-complete site, attended by about 200 dignitaries, sponsors and community members. The new centre comprises 3700 square metres of floor space, as well as netball, basketball, badminton, a fully equipped commercial kitchen, gym,first-aid room, change rooms, and a function centre capable of holding between 200-250 guests. Next to this function centre, from timber, including the flooring, rather than a concrete slab, and even used for the outside cladding. It is the second-biggest timber building constructed in WA, behind an aircraft hangar built in Merredin during World War Two, but can lay claim to being the first wooden public building in WA.

Mr Mulroney, who has been a resident of the town for 34 years and involved with the

there is also a small lounge area which can be closed off, and the facility also includes a bar and social area. The centre will overlook a proposed 10-rink bowling green, construction on which is due to begin in October, and six new tennis courts were built prior to works starting on the PRACC.

The facility is built entirely He said it was a big project for a small country town, but there was a very hardworking team behind the scenes that went outside the square when looking at options in the form of the focus group, and later the project team.

Shire for 33 of those.said it was a state-of-the-art facility that was absolutely beautiful, and residents were extremely proud of it. While the total cost has come in at $9.1m,he said the facility would consolidate sport and recreation in the town. "For our residents, it is a fantastic facility,a real uplift and upgrade which will hopefully entice more people to be involved in sport within the town," he said."But it will also be used widely, hosting events including those for corporate groups they have already been fielding a lot of enquiries from outside organisations, including caravan clubs, and even live artists. "We are trying to get more activity within the community The facility will not be run by the council, but rather by a board made up of community members, and there will be a full-time manager in place. "It was never the intention of the Shire to run the facility, it was always going to be for the community to run," he said. Mr Mulroney said he hoped it would become a social hub for families, as there was a playground integrated with the complex.

"And what they've come up with really is unique, there's nothing comparable to it." Finishing touches should be completed by November, while a New Years' Eve function is being planned for the community on December 31 as the first major event to be held there. Another project has also been completed within the town of late, with five new aged care units constructed to complement the new medical facility The council received $1.75m from WA Country Health after gifting them a plot of the old tennis courts on which to build the new Pingelly Health Centre, the money from which they used to build the new units and take the total to 31 aged care units in Pingelly And the way things are going, don't be surprised if there are more innovative plans on the drawing board for the town in the coming years.