NZ at forefront of timber renaissance for commercial buildings

Daryl Patterson is a good humoured evangelist when it comes to timber construction – not just framing in houses but for high rises and commercial buildings.

His message about lighter weight timber buildings has particular resonance for the “shaky isles” – especially Wellington’s reclaimed waterfront – even though Christchurch’s central city rebuild is dominated by concrete and steel.

Patterson is head of operational excellence at Australian development company Lend Lease and has been in New Zealand for the past fortnight presenting awards for timber construction, and holding industry forums with Kiwi experts in the field.

He cites central London’s planned Toothpick as a choice of the future. The 80-storey tower will soar 300 metres above its grey concrete slab neighbouring buildings.

Patterson highlighted recent high rise buildings by Lend Lease and other companies in major cities including Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and well as examples in New Zealand, which is leading the timber resurgence.

The historic Victoria University Law School in Wellington has always attracted attention as the largest wooden building in the southern hemisphere.

It came through the November 2016 earthquake unscathed while near-new steel and concrete edifices sagged and broke under their own weight. The new timber Kaikoura council headquarters was also unaffected. 

Convincing his bosses at Lend Lease took time and effort for Patterson but the completed buildings have proved themselves to chief executives and other clients.

Their concerns about vibration, noise, fire resistance, building methods and thermal qualities were dispelled and they were rapt about the aesthetic qualities when taken to see them.

The 10-level 42 metre Forte building in Melbourne using cross laminated timber went up 40 per cent faster than a concrete building, with fewer workers, quieter and safer building site, 90 per cent fewer truck movements, drier more pleasant work site, and more environmentally sustainable materials.

A main reason for faster construction was the prefabrication of the floors, walls and other components, he said.

“The laminated parts are manufactured with precision and the pieces slot together perfectly. It was also more pleasant – you don’t often get builders coming up to shake your hand and saying how fantastic it is working here.

“We had to do lot of initial work with bankers and insurers and their engineers because we didn’t want clients being hit with big premiums.”

Another example was the $25m public library on Sydney’s  Docklands where expensive repiling was avoided because of the relatively lightweight building.

“What impressed us was the public reaction. People came back to see the building and now there are more people going to it than the main library.” 

New Zealand had a leading role in laminated timber construction because Nelson company Xlam was the only precision manufacturing plant in the southern hemisphere and supplied panels and other components for Australian buildings. It is now setting up its second factory in Australia.

New Zealand designed and constructed timber buildings were celebrated at the recent NZ Wood Resene Timber Design Awards where Patterson presented the awards.

Ironically some of the very first colonial houses were prefabricated in England and shipped across the world to New Zealand before locals set up sawmilling operations.

Nowadays Kiwi designers and builders are at the cutting edge of timber construction.

​Other new high profile commercial timber buildings include Wellington Airport’s domestic terminal extension featuring extensive use of glue laminated timber frames, and the capital’s Massey University campus College of Creative Arts Building.


Source: Stuff News

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