NZ’s Largest All-Timber Building Is Taking Shape in Tauranga

Mass timber identified as "the perfect option" as New Zealand government looks towards net-zero carbon.

Thu 13 Jul 23


New Zealand’s largest all-timber building is progressing with an NZD 18.9 million building consent over the superstructure.

Announced in June 2022, the Tauranga City Council’s new eight-storey commenced construction in January 2023 and is part of a NZD 304 million Civic Precinct project Te Manawataki o Te Papa.

Wood Central understands the project will use 2000 tonnes of mass timber, including 134 piles of up to 24 metres of wood in the largest all-timber installation in New Zealand history.

It will combine cross-laminated timber (CLT), glulam and laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and opens in 2024.

The project is part of a greater Civic Precinct – including a Civic Whare (public meeting house), library, museum and exhibition space, and is expected to take eight years.

In June 2022, the council announced its master plan for the precinct. (Footage from @TgaCouncil)

During the consultation of the Long-term Plan Amendment 2021-2031, featuring the Civic Precinct project, many submissions called for the council to make sustainable and environmentally friendly choices when planning new civic builds.

An artist’s impression of the new precinct. (Image Credit: Wills Bond)

Commission chairwoman Anne Tolley said such sustainable outcomes were front of mind when considering this new building.

“We wanted to push the boundaries to design a wholly sustainable, future-focused workplace which maximises the use of natural materials such as the exposed timber columns which celebrate the uniqueness of the building,” Tolley said.

In a council meeting discussing the building’s design, Scion sustainable architect Andrea Stocchero said there was little reason not to build with wood.

“Building with wood is a great option, both for long-term carbon storage and for the broader social, economic and environmental advantages that wood provides on top of other technical, functional and biophilic benefits.”

In that same meeting, the programme manager of the Civic Redevelopment Programme, Mike Naude, said timber was “the perfect option”.

The council says its new offices are set to be an “impressive addition” to Tauranga’s cityscape and hoped to help revitalise the city centre.

Developed by Willis Bond and constructed by LT McGuinness, the 10,000-square metre leased building would feature rainwater harvesting, electric vehicle charging and facilities to encourage active transport options.

“Our goal is always to keep as much carbon in the ground as possible and to walk with a light footprint. What makes this project unique is the scale at which we’ve achieved this,” according to Willis Bond executive Chair Mark McGuinness.

A drone image showing the building under construction in May 2023. (Photo Credit: 90 Davenport).

Designed by New Zealand architect Warren and Mahoney, the project uses mass timber to achieve a 60% reduction in upfront emissions compared to a concrete-and-steel counterpart.

“By 2030, Warren and Mahoney’s goal is that all new projects will be net-carbon zero in operation, be 50% more energy efficient and have 40% less embodied carbon,” this project allows the firm to achieve this goal.

According to New Zealand architect Warren and Mahoney, the new building will reduce up-font carbon emissions by at least 60%. (Image credit: Warren and Mahoney).

The building targets a 6 Green Star sustainability rating and strongly emphasises mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge systems) and connection with its surrounding natural environment.

Warren and Mahoney are looking to use more mass timber to decarbonise buildings. (Image Credit: Warren and Mahoney)

The council sold the Devonport Rd site to Willis Bond in December 2021 with an agreement it would construct a building the council would lease back for its staff.

Tauranga City Council development and partnerships general manager Gareth Wallis said the project reached the “exciting milestone” of starting construction on its new office block at the beginning of this year.

“Despite a wet first half of the year, foundation and groundworks have been progressing well,” he said.

Wallis said the superstructure consent allowed the building to be constructed out of the ground, with future consents including the facade and interiors.

“With the arrival of some of the first timber deliveries, we are excited to see the building emerge from the ground in the coming weeks.”

In March 2023, a special ceremony involving Willis Bond, LT McGuinness, Tauranga City Council and representatives from mana whenua was held to commemorate ‘breaking dirt’ on the project. (Image Credit: 90 Davenport)

He said the more than 10,000 square metre office building at 90 Devonport Rd would be the largest mass timber office building ever built in New Zealand.

“At eight storeys high and constructed in mass timber, this will be an impressive addition to Tauranga’s cityscape and is another signal of progress that we are on our way to revitalising Tauranga’s city centre.”

“We anticipate moving into the building in early 2025 and look forward to having all of the council’s administration staff under the same roof [for the first time] since 2014 when we had to vacate our previous office on Willow St.”

New Zealand has long been a leader in mass timber production. (Footage courtesy of @Forestbusinessnetwork)

Willis Bond senior development manager Will Ellison said it started construction about six months ago, a “really pleasing milestone” to hit.

“We are on time and budget.”

Ellison said the consent was to build the superstructure, and most interesting of all, will use three different mass timber products.

“It will be the largest mass timber building in the country. It is really exciting.”

The latest consent means people would start to see the timber office building come “out of the ground” from late next week.

While he would not disclose the total cost of the build, Ellison said it was a “significant” project.

“We think this will be a significant part of the future of how commercial buildings are constructed. We are extremely grateful for Tauranga City Council to lead the way on this.”

Mainstreet Tauranga chairwoman Ashleigh Gee, who owns Miss Gee’s Bar and Eatery on The Strand, said the new city council office building would be an “amazing addition” to the CBD and hopefully bring workers and visitors back into the city.

“It is another great step towards the bustling city centre we aim for.”


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