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Wood innovation attracts Australian architects

6 March 2014

Wood innovation attracts Australian architects

A group of leading Australian commercial architects is visiting New Zealand this month to come up to speed with developments in the use of engineered wood in commercial buildings.

They will attend a national wood design seminar and the NZ Wood Resene Timber Design Awards, and visit several major manufacturing plants and some of the iconic structures that have given New Zealand a reputation as a leader in engineered wood construction. These include the Auckland Art Gallery, the Massey University College of Creative Arts and the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology.

"When many New Zealanders think of forestry and timber processing, they think of logs on our wharves. This unfortunately obscures the rapid progress New Zealand scientists, engineers, architects and wood processors are making with the use of engineered wood in wide-span and multi-storey commercial buildings," says NZ Wood chairman Paul Nicholls.

"While Australia has some outstanding commercial buildings made from engineered wood, they don't have the big manufacturing plants making these products like we do in New Zealand. New Zealand wood processors have made huge investments in Glulam, laminated veneer lumber and cross laminated timber and several of them are now investing in massive computer controlled processing centres."

University of Tasmania Professor Robert Morris-Nunn, a winner of many architectural awards, is taking part in the tour. As keynote speaker at the Timber Design Awards on 18 March and at the ForestWood conference the following day he will focus on innovative timber engineering, using timber in ways never envisaged even 25 years ago.

"Timber is a building product that is uniquely sustainable by being self-regenerative. There is now increasing interest worldwide in better understanding this resource and developing new engineering principles to make better use of it as the preferred building material.

"New Zealand is at the forefront of this renaissance. It is reflected in the creative, innovative thinking and adventurous spirit that I see in unique buildings like the Waitomo Caves Visitors Centre and the Auckland Art Gallery, both of which have received significant international acclaim.

"The NZ Timber Design Awards and the Woodsmart Construction Seminar will be showcases for the very latest thinking, and I am looking forward to seeing the latest examples of truly unique new timber structures by NZ designers."

Prof Morris-Nunn says that apart from the inherent structural qualities of timber, it is the only building product that is derived from a living entity – one that can positively contribute to addressing climate change by storing carbon dioxide.

His architectural firm Circa Morris-Nunn won the 2011 Australian Timber Design Award for Saffire Freycinet, a luxury 20 bedroom resort overlooking Great Oyster Bay in Tasmania. The resort features a complex curved roofline, built on a framework of engineered timber, mimicking the peaks of a nearby mountain range.

The Woodsmart Seminar and the NZ Resene Timber Design Awards are being held at the James Cook Hotel, Wellington, on 18 March, ForestWood 2014 is being held at Te Papa on 19 March


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