Wood the way of the future for Christchurch?

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While the re-build look and design of Christchurch is still being considered by an architectural “think tank,” there is growing support among builders, local government representatives and residents that solid wood needs to be the main building material used to resurrect the city.

Lockwood Group chief executive Bryce Heard says Lockwood homes in the Canterbury region withstood this month’s major earthquake and sustained no structural damage.
“The Christchurch earthquake of 7.1 on the Richter scale provided the company with a very valuable scientific study of just how well Lockwood homes coped during the initial quake and more than 450 aftershocks,” Mr Heard says.

Lockwood has been designing and building solid, secure homes for the past 60 years in many cyclone and earthquake-prone parts of the world, such as Asia, the United States, the Pacific Islands and the Middle East.

Most recently, the company has been invited by Chilean authorities to help rebuild the city of Concepcion after its major earthquake earlier this year, which Mr Heard says is testament to the multiple benefits of building using solid wood.

In the wake of the Christchurch earthquake, the Rotorua-based company quickly dispatched teams to the area offering to inspect all Lockwood homes in the stricken region, and found the homes had taken the quake in their stride.

“Seismic experts tell us there’s a 60% chance of another major earthquake in New Zealand in the next 10 years. We need to learn from this terrible disaster and rebuild a more full-proof city for the future, and we see our earthquake-proven homes as part of the solution.”
Mayoral candidate Jim Anderton is a strong advocate for rebuilding the city with wood as the main resource, saying in a media statement that it would be a “New Zealand solution” which is environmentally friendly, energy efficient and cheaper than using steel or reinforced concrete.

Residents in Darfield, the location of the earthquake’s epicentre, relived their experience of the quake.
Christine Robertson says because of all the aftershocks after the 7.1 earthquake at 4.35am, her husband, a licensed builder, went next door to see if their neighbour was alright.
“He then decided it would be safer if ourselves and several other neighbours stayed at our home. Being a wooden Lockwood home, we felt we would be fine to stay there until we felt able to return to our own homes.

Fellow Darfield resident Peter Eddy is relieved he has a Lockwood house. “I heard a roar like a freight train coming through the house walls. Then it shook violently for over a minute. The house stood up to the shake very well and the aftershocks since with no damage, as it moves,” Mr Eddy says.
One of the reasons for Lockwood’s reputation for strong, safe homes is its alternative system, which means no nails or timber frames are used during construction.

“The Lockwood system ties adjoining pieces of wood together using aluminium X profiles. These profiles are slid into precision cut dovetails in opposing pieces of solid timber,” Mr Heard says.
“By using vertical tied rods within the walls at regular intervals, the walls are tied to both the roof and the floor, providing a six sided, locked-together structure that can withstand most things that nature throws at it.”

All structural components are machined to precise specifications, inspected, numbered and treated to meet New Zealand building standards.
Lockwood is participating in a team lead by Professor Andy Buchanan from the Department of Civil & Natural Resources Engineering at the University of Canterbury, to review timber buildings and the consequential results of the recent earthquake to ensure Christchurch is quickly and safely rebuilt.