A cardboard cathedral

St elmo Courts Office is a 5 storey office base isolated building which uses timber support beams.  The hybrid building is constructed from a mix of concrete, steel and wood.
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Merritt’s Office has a totally different feel to any other building.

It is a commercial space containing an upmarket furniture store on the ground floor and designer offices upstairs.

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The 3 storey timber framed office building (1,600 m2) utilises post-stressed LVL box beam and frames with timber concrete composite floors.

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The two storey Trimble building is the first building in New Zealand to use both post-tensioned LVL frames and post-tensioned LVL walls with energy dissipating devices for the load resisting system.

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The site is split into two blocks – the first block frame took 1 week which apparently was too long for the clients.  The second block frame took 6 hrs!
It is very quick and quiet to install services into the timber.
There was a very good attitude on site considered largely to be because of the timber.

The Cardboard cathedral in Christchurch is a temporary structure built to replace the earthquake damaged cathedral.  The original proposal was for a structure built entirely from cardboard tubes.  However, this was met with some concern and so they have since been supported with LVL and steel.

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The Tait Communication building is a 2 storey timber framed office building (3,500 m2). The structure consists of a LVL Timber and Steel framed Structure, sitting on a screw piled foundation system. The client wanted to build something a bit different in line with their culture and brand. Part of the vision was that it needed to be timber construction.

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Services deliberately left exposed to show the timber structure.

Construction was really quick – a huge bonus for timber.

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CLT and more wooden buildings

Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) is a beautiful teaching space constructed with beam and post LVL and plywood.


_MG_5022 _MG_5019 _MG_5016 The 3 storey, 3000 m2 timber framed Arts and Media building utilises new generation earthquake‐resistant technology which consists of pairs of rocking timber walls, joined with energy dissipaters.



All structural details are on show for the students to walk around and see.


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This building is ‘locally sourced’ – the trees grow, the timber is manufactured and it is all put together within 50 miles of the site. 


It took 11 weeks to build from start to finish with a team of 4 people.


 Leftover timber was used to create beautiful pieces of furniture.

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51 Halifax Street is a 3-storey timber framed office building utilising earthquake minimising damage LVL system.


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The beams weren’t properly secured to the delivery truck and as a result fell off the back when a tight turn was taken around a roundabout.  Some were damaged and returned to Nelson Pine but most were delivered straight to site in still perfect condition – another clear benefit of timber.  If the beams had been made from concrete they would have all broken.


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Hunter Laminates Nelson is currently prefabricating all the wood for Netball Australia.


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XLam NZ is the only cross laminated timber (CLT) plant in Australasia.  They use a mix of douglas fir and radiata pine to make CLT. 


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Once the wood is sorted, cleaned and sawn it is laid out here and the glue sets under vacuum.  There is the ability for 3 pressing per day.  One pressing will hold up to 50 metres cubed of CLT.



They are creating feature ceilings with the CLT.



These CLT panels are ready for an architect’s home.  There is so much detail in the prefabrication that once delivered to site the house will be put together is 1 ½ weeks.


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 For more information and some great videos visit Xlam NZ




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Massey University and Nelson Pine Industries

The College of Creative Arts at Massey University, Wellington is constructed beautifully from laminated veneer lumber (LVL).  The building is designed for multiple uses and the timber allowed for this flexibility.


The LVL box beams, which by nature of construction are hollow on the inside, are secured by a steel footing that rises up inside the wood to a height of 2 metres.  I discovered that this rather unusual technique was used to protect against vandals with chainsaws!

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It contains two floors of large open spaces, used as teaching labs.

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The building is earthquake proof due to these stress relievers.  Apparently it uses the world’s first post tension frame technique.


The feedback from the students about the building has been very positive and is evident by how busy it gets.  Students love the environment, the natural ventilation and the design material.

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After a short, 25 minute flight to Nelson on the south island we arrived at Nelson Pine Industries’ Medium Density Fibre (MDF) and LVL manufacturing plant.  It is the largest MDF producer in the world – 25 acres all under one roof.  The plant employs 200 people. 180 trucks arrive at the plant each day delivering logs.  80 trucks leave each day full of finished product.  Unfortunately rules meant that we weren’t allowed to take any photographs – not so helpful for this blog.

‘We believe that wood can substitute for concrete and steel in many cases.  LVL is the product of the future.’ said CEO Nelson Pine Industries.

LVL is sold out until the middle of May.  MDF is sold out until the end of April.

Despite the rules, I did manage to get a few photos at the end of the tour…

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New Zealand Timber Design Awards

Day two took the Australian contingency of engineers, architects and a certain Planet Ark campaigner to the WoodSmart seminar at the New Zealand Timber Design Awards in Wellington.

Coastlands Aquatic Centre took the main award due to its amazing 2000m2 double curved transparet roof which provides a stunning internal environment for sports and recreation.  Energy efficiency measure were taken to ensure the project came in at budget.  Read more…

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At the seminar we learnt that you can engineer almost anything out of wood these days, although I wonder if that includes ‘The One Ring’ – I guess we’ll find out tomorrow when we hit the South Island.

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And just to show its not all just work, work, work …

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Planes, Prefabrication and an Art Gallery

Day one of the New Zealand Wood Smart tour kicked off at the Auckland Art Gallery, Toi o Tamaki.  Its beautiful forecourt and gallery are made from tree like structures constructed from New Zealand Kauri folded into organic geometric forms and supported on slender profiled shafts of glulam.

_MG_4916 It took years to source the 250 cubic metres of wood, from all over the country.  Quick back of an envelope calculations suggest that the structure stores around 80,000 kgs of carbon, although don’t quote me on that.


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Built on an old landfill site, the Museum of Transport and Technology is a 2,500 m2 LVL box which contains the best collection of planes in the southern hemisphere. The roof is stepped like the wing of a plane from the outside.

Glulam beams stretch across 43 metres and reach 16.5 metres in height in order to achieve both practical structural and beautiful uses.

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The additional challenge for the engineers was that planes would be hung from the ceiling meaning that extra strength was required.


‘Only wood could achieve the warmth and ambiance we were looking for.’  Said Carter Holt Harvey.

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Timberlab manufactures Glulam beams. The company has FSC chain of custody which means it can be sure that all the wood it uses comes from responsibly managed forests. We took a walk through the prefabrication plant to see how the engineered timber is made.

_MG_4971 _MG_4942 _MG_4945 _MG_4946 _MG_4950 _MG_4951 _MG_4953 _MG_4957 _MG_4962 _MG_4963 The CNC processing machine completes detailed profiling of Glulam, LVL and solid timber components up to 35 metres long and 4 metres wide. This includes a wide range of processing options – cutting, drilling, grooving, routing and beveling.


To read more about the environmental benefits of using wood visit Make It Wood

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New Zealand Wood Smart Tour March 2014

Next week, I’ll joining the WoodSmart Construction tour of New Zealand – a six day tour through Auckland, Wellington, Nelson and Christchurch.  I’m looking forward to visiting many timber buildings, especially the Auckland Art Gallery that won ‘World Building of the Year 2013’ as well as getting a better understanding of how engineered wood is manufactured (CLT, glulam and LVL).  I’ll be covering all the fabulous places we visit here with photos and interesting anecdotes so be sure to check in next week each day. Here is a list of what the tour will cover:

Auckland Art Gallery – spectacular timber foyer
Museum of Transport and Technology – a large LVL timber portal frame building.
TimberLab – a large timber fabricator with new CNC Bridge in action.
Wood Smart Seminar, James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor
Timber Design Awards, James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor

Massey University, College of Creative Arts, Wellington – 3 storey timber framed
educational building
XLam Cross Laminated Timber manufacturing plant
Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology – 3 storey timber framed Arts and
Media building
Halifax Street Office, 3 storey timber framed office building
Hunter Laminates Glulam manufacturing plant
Nelson Pine LVL manufacturing plant and fabricator
Siegfried’s Vineyard timber wine store
Tait Communication, 2 storey timber framed office building (3,500 m2)
Merritt’s Office 3 storey timber framed office building (1,600 m2)
St Elmo Courts Office, 5 storey composite timber and concrete office building
Trimble Navigation, 2 storey timber framed office building (6,000m2)
Tour of University of Canterbury Timber Testing Lab

Chris Philpot, Wood and Paper Programs Manager, Planet Ark


WoodSmart tour

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Visiting Forte

Make It Wood participated in the WoodSolutions seminar yesterday which focused on building with cross laminate timber and included a visit Lend Lease’s Forte.  The build has been underway for less than a month and already includes two storeys of CLT which really demonstrates the speed and ease of building with wood.  Once complete the building will reduce CO2 emissions by over 1400 tonnes, in comparison to a concrete or steel building.  That is like taking 345 cars off the road for a year.

View of Forte (below) from adjacent apartment building.  Note the clean construction site, only four builders and the crane to the right which simply lifts the CLT panels into place.  The black plastic wrapped cube to the right of the building is a pre-fabricated bathroom, made in Brisbane to top quality European standards.

Panels on the back of a truck, delivering from the Lend Lease warehouse (below), ready to be lifted into place.

The CLT panels are pre-fabricated in Austria and brought to Melbourne in shipping containers through the Suez canal.  They are stored in Lend Lease’s warehouse at the end of North Wharf Road.  It is a little like a giant flat pack delivery from Ikea!

Paintings by local primary school children depicting the ‘house of the future’ on display at the Forte site.

A cold, windy day at docklands in Melbourne.

Read more about Forte


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