NZ Timber Design Entries Point to Uptake in Hybrid Construction

Timber Unlimited reports that entries are 50% with preparations underway for the November 2, 2023, award ceremony.

Thu 19 Oct 23


The NZ Timber Design Awards are back, with professionals across New Zealand’s building and construction industry set to gather at Cordis Hotel in Auckland on November 2nd 2023.

The awards date back to 1975, and after a three-year hiatus, Timber Unlimited “is thrilled to host the event,” which features a sit-down dinner and award ceremony hosted by NZ celebrity Te Radar.

According to Dr Robert Finch, Director of Timber Unlimited, building and construction professionals increasingly seek timber-rich solutions to create better-built environments. 

“The possibilities for timber aren’t limited to traditional uses any more,” Dr Finch said. 

“We all know timber can be aesthetically beautiful as well as an impressive building material, but this time, we’re also celebrating just how sustainable a sector this is.” 

“What better way to help us do this than the Timber Design Awards?”

“The rapidly increasing use of timber in many innovative and exciting ways has the added benefit of sequestering CO2, helping us all transition to a low-emissions economy.”

The award-winning HomeGround, which provides a model of care-informed architecture, is a finalist in the Mid-rise Building Design and Sustainable Development Awards.  (Concept from Stevens Lawson Architects)

Timber Unlimited is the country’s new resource for building and construction professionals and provides builders, designers, architects, engineers and quantity surveys with timber-rich information.

The awards feature 12 categories and a People’s Choice Award, judged by an expert panel headed by David Carradine, a senior structural engineer from BRANZ. 

For Mr Carradine, “there is no limit to what can be done with this material, especially combined with the advances in digital and manufacturing technologies that cater specifically to wood and engineered wood products.” 

Joining Mr Carradine are Jan Stanway, Technical Director for WSP in New Zealand, Andrea Stocchero, a senior analyst, Sector and Bioeconomy Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service, and Judith Taylor, the current President of the NZ Institute of Architects.

Collectively, the panel was blown away by the innovation, dedication and creativity displayed by applications, with the panel responsible for shortlisting just 61 projects and selecting a winner and runner-up across all categories.

“The builders and makers of these beautiful examples of what can be done with one of our greatest national treasures, namely timber,” the jury said.

Speaking to Wood Central, Debbie Fergie said the awards have evolved, with timber being increasingly used in different applications.

“Now more than ever, we must recognise and celebrate the engineers, architects, architectural designers and builders who push boundaries and embrace change by championing nature’s greatest building material, sourced from the country’s renewable, natural, resource-based forests,” according to Ms Fergie who is the long time Award Manager.

“We’re helping the New Zealand design industry understand how timber can inspire their visions and solve their construction challenges.”

Ten years ago, entry categories were defined by such terms as “Residential Architectural Excellence,” “Interior Innovation,” and “Novel Application of Wood.” 

Whilst Ms Fergie said entries were always of a high standard and those projects are still appreciated, she said the huge strides in engineered timber and its applications are evident in the current award categories.

Multi-Unit Residential Buildings, Mid-Rise Building Design and the exciting Hybrid Building are all new awards – confirming that timber can be a modern, technologically innovative material while highlighting ways it can be used with more conventional materials.

Footage courtesy of @WoodCentralAu

When it comes to mass timber construction, NZ has emerged as a leader in the field, with SCION Innovation Hub securing the World Timber Prize World Architecture Festival 2021 and the new Fisher and Paykel HQ securing the 2023 “Design and Technology” award.

Both projects deploy a highly innovative timber diagrid design, which, according to Wood Central contributor and World Architecture Festival judge Mark Thomson, shifts the focus away from gravity mass timber buildings to geometrically stiffened forms to help in earthquake conditions.

A mass-timber diagrid system designed for Scion Innovation Hub. (Image Credit: RTA Studio).

And aftter 50 years, timber has emerged from its traditional market position of two- or maybe three-storey buildings using slabs, planks and nails. 

Today, the 2023 Timber Design Awards present categories for structures that use timber in ways that again push the boundaries of the possible, challenging steel and concrete as core construction materials or working with them in new and exciting ways. 

According to Ms Fergie , a special Hybrid Building Seminar will occur the same day before the awards, “meaning even more knowledge can be shared in a convenient timeslot – just plan on being out of the office for the whole day.” 

For more information, including securing tickets for the day, please visit Timber Unlimited’s dedicated website


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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