Article by: Mark Bate, Sales Manager NZ
An exciting reintroduction to the industry
In my first week at Stirling Machinery (and the first week back in the industry), I had the pleasure of attending the 5th annual WoodWorks timber conference in Rotorua, NZ. The event brings together industry leaders involved in engineered wood design and construction including LVL, CLT, prefab and connection systems. It was fascinating to see just how far wood has come in a relatively short space of time, to now being on par with steel and concrete as a preferred building material.
Our CEO, Craig Honeyman identified quite some time ago how progressive New Zealand has been in moving into engineered timber construction. “The uptake for engineered wood products doesn’t necessarily sit with the sawmills,” he says. “They’re already ahead of the game there. It’s more about figuring out where this new building technology fits in, determining its limitations and driving it to become mainstream in architectural design.
Zero Carbon 2050
There has been a major push toward Zero Carbon with the Government committing to New Zealand being carbon neutral by 2050. Wood plays perfectly into that through the carbon sink story which is hard to deny and hard to beat. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is heavily supporting engineered timber and working on requirements via the NZ building code to further support the commercial building sector to adopt engineered timber as a viable alternative to concrete/steel.
The overarching feeling in the room was that more work was needed. Facts remain that the gradual movement continues towards engineered timber as a major player in construction. Key players in the industry have been making continued improvements such as local timber processor Redstag which have invested heavily into product development and upscaling their processing and warehouse facilities.
Progress is happening, no matter any stakeholders’ preferences.
The $32 million terminal upgrades at Nelson Airport has become an iconic NZ build. Approximately 440m3 of locally sourced timber has gone into the project, with LVL portal legs cantilevered to provide a lateral bracing system. The result is unobstructed open spaces in the terminal.
Auckland City Mission Homeground
This $100 million project has been a massive learning curve that has driven influence around architects, engineers and developers. Built Environs, part of the McDonnell Dowell organisation are constructing New Zealand’s tallest CLT building, featuring retail and office space, supportive housing apartments and rooftop communal spaces.
Arvida Living Well Park Lane
Arvida Group, one of NZ’s largest retirement village operators has chosen wood as the primary building material for its Living Well Park Lane development for its sustainability, aesthetic and environmental virtues. The project was highly commended for a Sustainable Development Award. Arvida’s building program is expected to cost up to $600 million in the next 7 years.
Scion specialises in research, science and technology development for forestry, wood product, wood-derived materials, and other biomaterial sectors. Construction is almost complete of an $11 million medium-rise innovation hub on its campus which, being built out of engineered timber, ‘walks their talk’.
New Zealand’s first timber mid-rise reference building comes in the form of Clearwater Quays apartments, an engineered mass timber project partnership between Red Stag Investments Ltd and the MPI. CLT, GLT and panelised framing timber have been chosen for their speed, resilience, cost-effectiveness and sustainability for mid-rise construction.
Steering construction towards engineered timber
The above projects will contribute significantly toward an industry that’s in a better position to support the shift toward engineered timber construction. The proof of the pudding, as it were, will go a long way towards building confidence in timber’s structural integrity and sustainability virtues.
There is already a shift away from mainstay techniques and equipment to more specialised techniques. Aside from advancements in engineered timber manufacturing, we’re seeing supporting factors in specific engineering with bracket fixings, connecting systems and new techniques all supporting a system that complements the advancements made in the engineered timber market. Interest and momentum are building and the market is at a tipping point where a holistic approach to commercial building projects is needed to steer away from the old status quo.
As Craig says, “With all the engineered timber projects ramping up in Australia and New Zealand, this represents a very positive position for the timber industry overall. Timber’s resource and cost security are well understood and as these products become more competitive, ultimately, the impact on the environment will be hugely positive.”
Major takeaways from WoodWorks
The event showed that building with engineered wood products is moving ahead in leaps and bounds. But as I came to understand from WoodWorks, the overall message is that it’s not enough to promote the use of a single component such as CLT or LVL and expect the specifiers to sort out the rest. There needs to be a total solution, with proven products and techniques for all the peripherals. Once all that comes together, there will be a groundswell of uptake.