Why use timber?

Wood is currently experiencing a worldwide renaissance. Due to its excellent environmental credentials more and more consumers are asking for it. In a time when any building project should be scrutinised regarding its environmental impact, this is a product which seems to fit perfectly with the new drive towards more eco-friendly and healthy buildings.

From our childhood everybody knows wood is warm and tactile, it’s got character. Designed well, wood as a building material is durable and robust enough to stand up for hundreds of years, as some of the oldest European and Asian timber structures demonstrate.

Wood is a national commodity, which can be readily sourced with ease throughout New Zealand. The reliability in supply results in cost certainty for the structural elements, with minimal dependence on international market demand. Timber construction has low embodied energy and stores carbon. In addition, it has been shown that carbon stored within structural elements offsets carbon produced during construction.

Solid timber commercial construction

While solid timber commercial construction (using large timber components) has been common overseas for many years, its use in New Zealand has not been widespread. Consequently many designers are unfamilar with timber as a structural material. Careful structural design is required to ensure that solid timber buildings achieve the performance requirements of the New Zealand Building Code.

There are numerous benefits associated with solid timber construction. Some key points are:

  • Solid timber construction can achieve a high degree of prefabrication. The degree of prefabrication, combined with well detailed structural connections, results in a structural system that is rapid to build. For example, a 9-storey CLT building in London was constructed at a rate of one floor per week.
  • Structural systems using solid timber can achieve high levels of structural performance, under service conditions and extreme events such as fire and earthquake. Research has demonstrated that solid timber buildings can be designed to minimize structural damage under large earthquake events enabling uninterrupted occupancy.
  • Using solid timber can significantly reduce the weight of a building.
  • The light weight nature of solid timber buildings limits structural demands on the foundation. This allows foundation costs to be significantly reduced. This is especially true in poor soil conditions.
  • The relative ease and speed of construction of solid timber can result in further economies. Specifically there can be saving in labour, cranage, transport, health and safety and disposal costs, not to mention the benefits of early builidng occupation.