Thursday, 02 June 2016
Changing Perceptions about Engineered Wood in the Construction Sector.
Some of these projects will definitively blow your mind.
Rotorua is becoming an increasingly famous Think Tank in the topic of Wood Innovation.
Over the past decade, Rotorua has become an international forestry centre, a huge exporter of FSC® certified wood, the home of the biggest Australasian sawmill (Red Stag), the first city in New Zealand having a Wood First Policy and an active promoter of R&D in the forestry sector.
On Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th, a major event was held in Rotorua; the “Changing Perceptions about Engineered Wood in the Construction Sector” conference, which was attended by the Forest Stewardship Council® New Zealand.
The conference was opened by Francis Pauwel, CEO at Grow Rotorua and Hon Jo Goodhew, Associate Minister for Primary Industries, followed by speakers from New Zealand, the UK, Canada and Australia.
New methods of wood construction in larger buildings along with the strengths and opportunities being offered by new engineered wood products were covered. Presenters showcased projects around the world, focusing on challenging perceptions of the use of timber in construction.
Some examples included the Credit Valley Hospital in Canada (see cover picture), "causing health" through the vision of its specific timber structure, the stunning Yellow Treehouse Restaurant by Architects Pacific Environments (only 50kms from Auckland!)and the crazy 80-storey timber Skycraper project in London.
Negative perceptions and lack of education around the benefits of timber are actually the main obstacles for using timber in the construction sector. In commercial buildings the presenters argued that timber can be cheaper than concrete or steel, as well as being fire and seism resistant, can be used for high rise buildings, and above all, is the most sustainable material available for construction.
Two speakers placed special emphasis on timber’s properties such as carbon emissions absorption, health benefits (decreased blood pressure and stress, humidity moderation) and reduced construction delays (especially when using prefabricated parts).
Building more responsibly is especially pertinent if we take into account that the construction and building markets should reach unprecedented levels of construction activity for New Zealand in the next couple of years, with over NZ$35 billion of construction being forecast by MBIE.
The Living Building Challenge (LBC), mentioned throughout the conference, is a great model of what could be developed in the future. LBC is a new certification scheme imported to NZ from the US. It challenges the construction sector through its high standards but also proposes a holistic approach to construction, by including the choice of local and responsibly sourced materials and the engagement of the community in its assessment of sustainable outcomes.
The Tūhoe Headquarters provide an amazing example of a building built based on such standards. Among other features, the complex structure and finishes are primarily timber, 95% of which was sourced from local FSC forests and supplied by Abodo. The timber structure was made using an award winning seismic resistant system and all the energy needed by the building is autogenerated through the largest solar electric array in NZ.
Overall the event was successful, providing valuable insights for the construction industry and showcasing innovation in the sector. Engineered timber and international collaboration seem they could provide one of the solutions for a better future.