New Zealand Logger - - Contents - Story: John El­le­gard

Our quar­terly fo­cus on the New Zealand milling and pro­cess­ing sector high­lights the in­vest­ments to boost cross lam­i­nated tim­ber (CLT) pro­duc­tion made by XLam, both here in New Zealand at its Nel­son plant and in Aus­tralia.

KIWI HIGH-TECH WOOD COM­PANY, XLam, is primed for growth fol­low­ing a mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar in­vest­ment that will en­able it to fur­ther ramp up de­liv­ery of pre-fab­ri­cated build­ings to help with New Zealand’s hous­ing short­age and the am­bi­tious Ki­wiBuild project.

XLam is Aus­trala­sia’s largest man­u­fac­turer of Cross Lam­i­nated Tim­ber (CLT) – large­for­mat struc­tural build­ing pan­els and el­e­ments cre­ated by bond­ing to­gether tim­ber boards in or­thog­o­nal lay­ers.

The com­pany has in­vested around $5 mil­lion in up­grades for its Nel­son fa­cil­ity, with 15 new staff also join­ing the team, on the back of the open­ing of its $30 mil­lion Aus­tralian man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity. And fol­low­ing ex­ten­sive test­ing, the Aus­tralian op­er­a­tion can also sup­ply treated tim­ber to com­ply with New Zealand Build­ing Code re­quire­ments if nec­es­sary.

The in­vest­ments come as New Zealand ex­pe­ri­ences a resur­gence in de­mand for sus­tain­able tim­ber con­struc­tion and one of the busiest times seen in this coun­try for con­struc­tion of pre­fab­ri­cated busi­nesses, homes and build­ings.

XLam CEO, Gary Caulfield, says: “CLT is a key build­ing block in the de­liv­ery of pre­fab­ri­cated build­ings, which of­fer the po­ten­tial to ad­dress New Zealand’s cur­rent hous­ing short­age, pro­vid­ing safer, high qual­ity, faster builds.”

Mr Caulfield says de­mand for XLam’s prod­ucts and ser­vices has risen dra­mat­i­cally in the last 18 months, with 2017 turnover in­creas­ing in line with ex­pec­ta­tions.

“While Europe has been us­ing CLT for more than 20 years and the United States has seen a strong up­take in the last few years, New Zealand has lagged be­hind in adopt­ing the more ef­fi­cient, higher qual­ity build­ing ma­te­rial and the as­so­ci­ated con­struc­tion method­ol­ogy,” he says.

“How­ever, with New Zealand’s cur­rent hous­ing short­age and high de­mand for lower cost hous­ing, along with a con­struc­tion in­dus­try staffing and skills short­age, de­mand for CLT pre­fab­ri­cated houses is ex­pected to soar – in­deed we’re al­ready see­ing the in­creas­ing de­mand.”

XLam’s CLT pan­elised so­lu­tions are al­ready be­ing used by Hous­ing New Zealand in its new pre­fab­ri­cated houses. XLam is cur­rently be­ing sug­gested as an op­tion to en­able the gov­ern­ment to de­liver on its flag­ship Ki­wiBuild pro­gramme, which prom­ises to build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years.

In March this year, in­dus­try body Pre­fabNZ re­leased a re­port show­ing pre­fab­ri­cated hous­ing could de­liver around 7,000 homes

a year in New Zealand from 2020 if the wider pre­fab in­dus­try scales up.

A Pre­fabNZ state­ment claims that pre­fab­ri­cated houses can re­duce con­struc­tion time by up to 60% and pro­vide ap­prox­i­mately 15% cost sav­ings, while also hav­ing sig­nif­i­cantly fewer de­fects and pro­vid­ing around a 25% waste min­imi­sa­tion sav­ing. An­other sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tage of pre­fab­ri­ca­tion con­struc­tion is that it re­duces time in which builders work ‘at height’ on build­ing sites, re­duc­ing health and safety in­ci­dents. On­site con­struc­tion is also qui­eter due to the very dif­fer­ent way in which pre­fab­ri­cated con­struc­tion oc­curs com­pared to more tra­di­tional forms of build­ing.

XLam’s re­cent in­vest­ments in­clude $3 mil­lion for an­other Com­puter Numer­i­cal Con­trolled (CNC) cut­ting ma­chine, to cus­tom cut CLT pan­els to de­sign­ers’ spec­i­fi­ca­tions. The new CNC ma­chine, which al­lows pre­ci­sion cut­ting to tol­er­ances within a mil­lime­tre went into op­er­a­tion in June, in­creas­ing ca­pac­ity in New Zealand by more than 30%. The Nel­son plant is cur­rently ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing around 250m of CLT a week – enough for more than eight houses or a full apart­ment block. Typ­i­cally, on-site build­ing assem­bly rates ex­ceed 100m per hour us­ing prod­ucts like CLT.

An­cil­lary equip­ment is also be­ing added, with a fur­ther $300,000 in­vest­ment in qual­ity test equip­ment.

“Given the mas­sive po­ten­tial for CLT in

New Zealand, we have sig­nif­i­cantly ex­panded both our staffing and our pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity,” says Mr Caulfield.

“The new CNC cut­ting ma­chine will pro­vide us with a large amount of ex­tra ca­pac­ity to take on ad­di­tional projects and en­sure we can meet mar­ket de­mand for our prod­ucts.”

Con­fig­ur­ing the busi­ness to In­dus­try 4.0, or the In­dus­trial In­ter­net of Things (IIoT), XLam has im­ple­mented a new $1.2 mil­lion ERP sys­tem to en­sure the high­est level of sys­tems in­te­gra­tion as­sist­ing with the trans­la­tion of de­sign through to man­u­fac­tur­ing, thus in­creas­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity.

XLam part­ners with com­pa­nies like Ar­row In­ter­na­tional for large builds, with Mr Caulfield not­ing that the up­take of new tech­nolo­gies re­quires dif­fer­ent think­ing, new forms of con­tract­ing, in­tel­li­gent pro­cure­ment and gen­er­ally a new non-tra­di­tional at­ti­tude.

“The lead­er­ship shown within the ver­ti­cal con­struc­tion mar­ket by com­pa­nies such as Ar­row In­ter­na­tional on a large scale and Christchurch’s Miles Con­struc­tion in the medium scale is to be com­mended,” he adds.

XLam CLT pan­els are treated in ac­cor­dance with reg­u­la­tory re­quire­ments for New Zealand, adding to the dura­bil­ity and longevity of the prod­ucts. Mr Caulfield says un­treated tim­ber used in the past in New Zealand raises ques­tions about pro­fes­sional in­dem­nity in­sur­ance for the in­dus­try.

“There are still a lot of ques­tions around who is li­able for spec­i­fy­ing a 50-year-old struc­tural prod­uct that is un­treated,” he goes on to say.

“There is more to ro­bust de­sign than sim­ply spec­i­fy­ing treated tim­ber. How­ever, un­til de­tail­ing, staff skills, train­ing, sys­tems and work­man­ship are im­proved the use of treated tim­ber is, un­for­tu­nately, a re­quired part of the tim­ber con­struc­tion so­lu­tions en­sur­ing ad­e­quate dura­bil­ity is achieved and mit­i­gat­ing the risks.

“This is the best time in New Zealand’s his­tory for wood con­struc­tion and off­site man­u­fac­tur­ing, and XLam is in­vest­ing heav­ily to en­sure we can help bring bet­ter, more af­ford­able hous­ing to more New Zealan­ders.”

As part of its growth pro­gramme, XLam has also ex­panded its se­nior man­age­ment team with the ap­point­ment of John East­wood as the head of busi­ness devel­op­ment for both New Zealand and Aus­tralia.

Mr East­wood has pre­vi­ously held coun­try man­ager and se­nior com­mer­cial man­age­ment roles with a num­ber of multi­na­tional and na­tional build­ing ma­te­rial man­u­fac­tur­ers and sup­pli­ers to com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial con­struc­tion sec­tors.


Main pic: The main struc­tural sup­port and shear walls of the Plant & Foods Re­search cen­tre in Nel­son com­prise XLam 5-layer 130mm thick CLT pan­els.

Above: CLT supplied by XLam is used in this Hous­ing New Zealand multi-unit res­i­den­tial devel­op­ment in Auck­land. Below: CLT was used in the walls and stair­case in the Bealey Lodge Back­pack­ers Hos­tel in Christchurch.

Above: This award-win­ning ar­chi­tect-de­signed ru­ral work stu­dio in the Waimea In­let, in Tas­man dis­trict, was con­ceived with CLT in mind.Below left: XLam CEO, Gary Caulfield.Below right: The in­side of the Waimea stu­dio shows off the CLT wood pan­els.Op­po­site page:

Use of pre­fab­ri­cated CLT pan­els al­lows build­ings to go up faster, with less labour.

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