23 Sep 2017

NZ urged to build more high rises using wood

6:17 pm on 23 September 2017

A visiting Canadian building expert is urging New Zealand to make better use of its natural timber to construct more high-rise buildings using wood.

Tallwood House.

Tallwood House. Photo: Supplied / University of British Columbia

Karla Fraser, a senior project manager at Urban One Builders in Vancouver, is in New Zealand for a conference in Rotorua later this week

She worked on the Tallwood House at Brock Commons in Vancouver, the tallest timber building in the world, which opened in July.

It is an 18-storey building housing students at the University of British Columbia.

She said a fear of building high-rises with wood had meant the idea had been slow to take off. There had been concerns about moisture levels in the wood, and fire risk.

Stacked timber

Photo: 123RF

Ms Fraser said a lot of work went into the design and testing of the building and fears had been assuaged.

She said it made sense to use wood, particularly in countries with an abundance of timber like Canada and New Zealand.

"There is definitely a benefit to be able to grow a product you are using to build."

She said in the case of Tallwood House it was about 5 percent more expensive to build than a conventional concrete building.

Ms Fraser said construction using mainly timber was environmentally friendly.

"At Tallwood we had a lot less waste than we have off regular projects we work on."

Ms Fraser, who visits Christchurch on the trip, said high-rise buildings built with timber were a safe option.

Timber buildings were lighter and flexed more in quakes.

"The wood buildings, they make sense. They have a lot more flex to them and the engineering expertise is available and can be done easily and I do believe these are smarter buildings.

"It makes perfectly good sense to use your local industry to support your economy and the people living here."

Builders, engineers and architects had to want to embrace the concept if it was to succeed, she said.

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