NZ’s construction future ‘should be in tall timber buildings’


Most new commercial and residential builds in New Zealand are eight storeys or below — an ideal height for building in engineered timber, according to NZ Wood promotion manager Debbie Fergie.

“As the challenge of providing more affordable housing solutions grows, we have to search for more innovative ways of designing and making buildings,” she says.

“This includes rethinking the materials we use, the design software we use, and the manufacturing and construction processes,” adds ex-pat Daryl Patterson, Lendlease Head of Operational Excellence, Property, in Sydney.

Timber is a material that can be easily processed by robotics, giving very high levels of accuracy and quality.

Architects’ design software can now talk directly to machines shaping the building components, avoiding those “lost in translation” problems when information passes through many hands.

Benefits of using Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) include high speed and quieter construction, much safer work practices, low carbon emissions, cost competitiveness — and use of the only structural building material that is renewable.

New Zealand already produces as much CLT as Britain and the United States combined, in the only factory in the southern hemisphere.

In the past, its use was limited to low-rise structures due to concerns about the fire hazard from lightweight timber framing.

However, heavy timber actually performs better in fire than structural steel — a layer of insulating and fireproof char forms on the outside of it when it burns, protecting the structural integrity of the wood itself.

Also, systems are available to give timber framed systems equivalent fire ratings.

“CLT has the durability, strength, stability, seismic resilience, thermal performance, fire resistance, moisture management and vapour diffusion, and design flexibility.

New Zealand should champion this system and become the world leader in CLT-constructed buildings,” Mr Patterson said at the recent NZ Wood-Resene Timber Design Awards.

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