Construction industry needs to consider shift from steel to engineered wood

OPINION: As Marlborough continues to grow and expand, we should be looking carefully at some of the construction materials that we use in our large commercial buildings going forward.

There are many compelling reasons why we should seriously considering a shift from building with steel and concrete to engineered wood products.

Those reasons are based on environmental sustainability, on supporting local industry but also because of the seismic strength that timber has compared to the rigid materials that our construction industry favours now.

We learned a lot from the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake. Of significance was how well the new Kaikōura civic building, which had not even been officially declared open, withstood the event.

Unlike many buildings around it, the civic centre was undamaged and so immediately became the Civil Defence Emergency Operations Centre.

The award-winning three-storey building, with its “craypot” facade, was made entirely from pre-fabricated, engineered wood products, some of which were sourced from Nelson. 

Vitally, it used no steel framing, and concrete is only present in the foundation and floor slab. Instead, laminated veneer lumber (LVL) was used for beams and columns, the floors were constructed from lightweight wooden panels, and the walls from pre-stressed laminated timber technology.

It was designed to be sustainable and to withstand extreme winds and earthquakes – something that nobody would have thought could be tested so soon, and so dramatically.

Another example is the newly renovated Nelson Airport terminal, which also used LVL from Nelson Pine Industries, and in doing so supported its local timber growing and processing industry.

While its seismic strength has, thankfully, not been tested yet, the building is spacious, functional and looks great.

It is New Zealand’s first timber airport terminal building but, in a country with a thriving timber industry, it should certainly not be the last.

Ultimately, as we have seen so clearly in Kaikōura, building with engineered timber products can save lives. Timber is strong and flexible, environmentally friendly because it’s a renewable source, and produces no fossil CO2 emissions.

In a country with a thriving pine forest and timber industry we should be grasping this obvious opportunity.

Source: Stuff News

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