Gary has over 30 years experience in the commercial construction industry, across the UK, Europe, Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. The last 12 having been based in New Zealand working within the pre-fabrication sector. Immediate Past Chairman of PrefabNZ, Gary has been involved in the majority of NZ’s pre-fabrication projects.
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Construction innovation goes back to basics
It may be a case of necessity being the mother of invention, with forward-thinking New Zealand companies like XLam – of which I am CEO – producing enough specialist CLT (cross laminated timber) out of our Nelson HQ and new Australian plant to service demand throughout the South Pacific. Meanwhile, updates are being made to New Zealand Standard 3602, which dictates the treatment required for timber and wood-based products for use in building and construction, to prevent any repeat of the leaky building disaster in which untreated timber was a culprit.
The inclusion in the proposed new standard of mass timber products such as CLT is an acknowledgement by policymakers of the rise in popularity of this unique construction method. While it’s comparatively new in New Zealand – we are the first manufacturer of CLT in the southern hemisphere – CLT has a global record of quality and reliability, having been widely used in Europe for the past 30 years and more recently in the North American market.
Locally, CLT presents a number of benefits to industry stakeholders looking to use mass timber in construction. The kind we produce, which uses a proprietary treatment process, is better quality than other forms of timber. It creates lighter structures so less labour is required, and construction is faster. Critically, especially in light of the Labour-led Government’s commitment to reducing New Zealand’s carbon emissions, CLT is sustainable, because wood has a total negative carbon footprint. And our rigorous testing programme (fire, acoustic, durability and destruction) enables CLT products to remain above the minimum requirements specified in the Building Code.
Our CLT outperforms conventional framed construction in air tightness, thermal insulation, internal moisture management, acoustic insulation and fire resistance. Its use is especially applicable to single-unit housing and in ‘honeycomb” construction – buildings whose permanent walls can act as the primary support structure and work with the floor and roof to make a lightweight, highly stable and rapidly erected structure. In this building category, apartments, multi-unit housing, hotels, aged care facilities, schools and hospitals are all strong candidates for CLT panels.
There’s no doubt CLT has earned a reputation among private and public developers: we are currently working with Auckland Council and Housing New Zealand on building developments. We have supplied and are supplying CLT to provide more than 500 bedrooms for Housing New Zealand alone. Innovation means even after the lessons of leaky buildings, we don’t need to be afraid of wood, and a vanguard local body is Rotorua Lakes Council, which adopted a Wood First policy and action plan in 2015 to encourage the use of wood products and support the district’s vital wood industry.
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