Central Wellington will soon be home to the world's tallest timber office building.
This week, New Zealand's largest private prime office building owner Robert Jones Holdings unveiled plans for the construction.
Laminated timber is far more earthquake-resilient and fire-resistant than steel or reinforced concrete and also more environmentally friendly, says Sir Bob.
The Featherson Street building will be 12 storeys higher than the current tallest timber office building in the world which is under construction in Brisbane.
The world's tallest timber building is currently Canada's 18-storey Brock Commons student accommodation building (completed last year) which stands at 53 metres tall, while in London there are plans to build an 80-storey wooden building of 1,000 new residences dubbed 'The Toothpick' are underway.
Sir Bob says that when he broached the idea of using timber, architects and engineers there was great excitement.
“They’ve been waiting for it to happen.”
New Zealand has a great strategic advantage with a plentiful supply of wood, but very few buildings are made this way here, he says.
He predicts timber will be the principal material for highrises in the future and potentially there will be huge export markets for our laminated or engineered wood overseas.
“There’s no limit to how high you can go with it. It’s really relevant to New Zealand, not only to stop importing steel and start processing our timber, but it’s relevant for earthquake reasons. It’ll be the most earthquake-safe building.”
And passersby won’t notice a thing.
“It’s a modern office building on a corner facing north. What we’re talking about here are the key structural elements columns and the cross beams and we are going to put wooden floors on it.”
Sir Bob is baffled as to why more developers haven’t looked at laminated wood, particularly in the Christchurch rebuild.
“There’s such a very good rationale for it … but they will from now, these things are contagious. But it is interesting, it should have been done sooner.”