More wood use in mid-rise buildings by 2030
SAWMILL OWNER, MARTY VERRY, RECKONS THE USE OF engineered timber in mid-rise buildings will be the ‘norm’ by 2030.
The owner of Rotorua-based Red Stag told the 2017 DANA Forestry Conference last month that Australia has leap-frogged New Zealand in wood use in commercial buildings over the past ten years and we need to catch up.
“If wood is faster, cheaper, better for the environment, has less waste and less traffic and noise, and meets the needs of Australia, and we can prove all these things here and put in a systematic process to build the demand and the competencies and capabilities in New Zealand, then why should wood not be the norm in New Zealand in 2030,” he says.
Mr Verry was quoting figures from Australiam quantity survey analysis that showed on a 7-storey residential building of 5,500m2 made with engineered timber, the structure costs were 12% lower than traditional methods, and it was six weeks quicker to build, with crane time being a significant cost-saver.
The same analysis carried out on a 13,000m2 building saw 8% lower structure costs and nine fewer weeks to build.
Fewer people are needed on site during the construction phase, which also meant reduced risks for injuries.
Mr Verry says that even if wood grabbed only a 25% share of the midrise commercial and residential construction market in this country it would still double the size of our structural framing industry. This business alone would be worth around $375 million, or the equivalent of the framing industry as it stands today.
But, as Mr Verry points out, there are a number of roadblocks that need to be cleared that are currently preventing the uptake of engineered wood in commercial construction. Among these are question marks over the supply of engineered wood products, whether there is enough expertise and understanding among developers, architects, quantity surveyors and engineers, as well as whether councils are likely to sign off the plans.
The solution to removing these roadblocks, according to Mr Verry, is to commission projects that can be used as reference points by developers, architects, quantity surveyors, engineers and council planners. Such projects would be documented and their details be made readily available to those audiences to prove the advantages of using engineered wood.
And Mr Verry is proposing to undertake such a project himself, in order to kick-start the process.
He outlined a plan that he is currently backing to build a 5-storey apartment block at the Clearwater Resort in Christchurch, which will be built using various types of engineered wood, including New Zealandmade Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) in the floors, lift shafts and stairwells, Glulam portals and pre-fabricated exterior bracing panels.
All details of the projects would be documented and costs measured as part of the case study to be published in booklet form as well as going onto a website. Interested parties would be invited to view the project during and after construction. The projects would also be showcased through seminars, conferences, investor/constructor briefings, along with briefings with professionals, such as architects and engineers.
This exercise would need to be repeated with other mid-rise projects, until investors, developers, professionals and planners were comfortable with the idea of mid-rise timber buildings.
If the plan succeeds, Mr Verry envisages a major expansion of timber production facilities in New Zealand by 2030 to meet the demand, including two or three more CLT plants and several specialist prefabrication manufacturers, as well as more frame and truss companies.
To aid this vision, Mr Verry still believes the government should adopt a ‘wood first’ policy for its own building projects.
He points out that increased use of timber in mid-size commercial and residential buildings is vital to the forestry industry because new homes are reducing in size and will use less wood framing in the future. Greater adoption of engineered timber is the way to offset this trend.
• CLT manufacturer, XLam, recently announced plans to expand its Nelson manufacturing facility by adding an extra computer-controlled CNC fabrication machine to meet its commitments for CLT products. Across the Tasman, XLams’s joint-venture to build a large plant between Melbourne and Sydney has just produced its first CLT panel as it goes through the commissioning stage.
Mid-rise engineered wood projects like the Kaikoura Council Office building could be the norm by 2030.