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Engineered wood products open up new possibilities

Kim Stewart Nov 11
Engineered wood products open up new possibilities
Significant commercial projects built using wood include the new terminal at Nelson Airport.

A new series of guidelines on timber use in building in New Zealand spearheaded by the Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association of New Zealand (WPMA) is “trans industry”, says manager of the NZ Wood Design Guides, Andy Van Houtte.

“This project connects industries from forestry to construction, quantity surveying, manufacturing and design. It helps people become passionate about the possibilities of wood,” he says.

The first of the design guidelines were launched in April and the overall aim of the project is to fill a knowledge gap; assisting engineers, architects, developers and others in the building and construction industry to understand the benefits of using wood in their projects.

“People wanted to specify or use wood but there was a real need for more technical information,” says Andy.

WPMA in conjunction with the Forest Growers Levy Trust (FGLT) funded the initial guidelines.

Huge interest has seen the project expand significantly with plans for 54 guides in total to be released over the next 18 months.

Funding partners include BRANZ, NZ Timber Design Society, Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia (EWPAA), Jacks and AGMARDT.

Andy says that the guides will include a quantity surveying guide for costings for timber buildings, cassette panel systems, standard connection details and sustainability amongst others.

Each guide has been written by a subject matter expert and peer reviewed by a working group.

“We wanted to capture current conversation in the construction industry to make sure the guides were relevant.

Reception to the guides has been very positive,” he says.

In particular the prefab guide has met current curiosity around this type of building, especially as wood plays a major role in prefabricated construction.

PrefabNZ will promote the guide to its members and it will be offered in the conference pack of next year’s CoLab, says Andy.

He says the benefits of wood are well recognised by the residential building industry with some 95% of homes using wood.

The opportunity is in the commercial sector where new engineered wood products have opened up new possibilities.

Significant commercial projects built using wood include the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology building, the new terminal at Nelson Airport, the Otago Polytechnic student accommodation block, the Trimble Navigation building and Tait Communication headquarters in Christchurch.

“Wood is produced locally, which means local jobs.

It is a renewable and therefore sustainable resource and it is cost effective to build with,” says Andy citing some of the many benefits of wood as a construction material.

“Most engineered wood products are available using prefab or CNC technology from suppliers and the level of accuracy is second to none which speeds up construction on site as there is almost no onsite remediation required.”

The seismic qualities of wood are also another drawcard, particularly in earthquake prone areas of New Zealand.

“Wood offers superior seismic resilience properties in its strength to weight ratio because it is a lightweight material, which means reduced seismic mass, less rigorous foundation requirements and inherent resilience due to timber’s flexibility,” he explains.

“Timber buildings perform exceptionally well in earthquakes.

“For example the Kaikoura District Council building was a low damage design. It opened a few weeks before the earthquake and survived so well it was used as the Civil Defence building.”

Other benefits of wood include that it is quieter to build with, no wet trades are required on site (as with concrete) and Andy believes there are also safety benefits as it is a softer lighter material to construct with.

Andy says that NZ Wood’s ultimate goal is for the guides to become NZQA accredited and be part of a ‘timber design centre’, a cloud-based library of resources that will ensure good design, accurate costings and easy consenting for wood in construction.

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