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NZ’s Largest Timber Building On Track After First Levels Delivered

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


Fri 27 Oct 23

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More than 500 council workers will move into NZ’s largest mass timber building in 2025 after the Tauranga City Council consented to an additional $26.6m for its new eight-storey building at 90 Davenport Road.

It comes as the first two levels of timber and steel hybrid installation have now been delivered, with construction crews working on level 3.

The latest commitment follows the NZ $18.9 million consent issued in July, with the total value of consents passing NZ $45.5.

With further commitments to come “as the further design is being completed in later stages,” according to Tauranga Council City Development and Partnerships General Manager Gareth Wallis.

“This is in addition to the superstructure consent issued in July for the building to be constructed out of the ground,” Mr Wallis said.

Wood Central understands the new consent is for architecture and building services, including fire engineering, with the total value of the development expected to exceed NZ $100m.

More than 2000 tonnes of cross-laminated timber, glulam and laminated veneer lumber will be used in New Zealand’s largest all-timber installation (Photo Credit: 90 Davenport)

“This development involves a phased consenting process,” Mr Wallis said before adding that there has been “significant progress” since construction began in January this year.

“Foundation and in-ground connection works have been completed, and the ground floor slab pours have commenced.”

“Excitingly,” Mr Wallis said, “since July, the first two levels of the timber and steel installation are now complete, and the construction crews are now working on the structure for level three.”

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

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)

“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,” according to Anne Tolley, the Tauranga City Council Commission Chairperson.

In October 2021, designs for the building were approved by the council, with Scion Sustainable Architect Andrea Stocchero pushing for a timber-rich solution.

“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.”

As reported in July, 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 combines cross-laminated timber (CLT), glulam and laminated veneer lumber (LVL), which, according to developer Willis Bond Development Manager Will Ellison, the project is unique.

It will target a 6-Star Green Star rating, which is “world’s best practice,” according to the NZ Green Building Council.

Timber buildings are surging, with the Green Building Council of Australia noting a 50% uptake in timber projects over the last 12 months.

NZGBC Director of Market Transformation Sam Archer and University of Auckland Waipapa Taumata Rau’s Chief Property Officer, Simon Neale. (Photo Credit: Supplied by the NZGBC)

And in New Zealand, the NZ Green Building awarded Auckland University’s new Social Sciences Building the country’s highest rating for a Green Star project.

Developed by Willis Bond and constructed by LT McGuinness, the 10,000-square-metre building has been designed to minimise the upfront and operational carbon of the building.

“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.

It also strongly emphasises mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge systems) and its connection with its surrounding natural environment.

Designed by New Zealand architects 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 Mr Wallis, the plan is to move the full council into the new building in early 2025 and end more than 11 years of disruption.

“We look forward to having the council together for the first time since 2014 when we had to vacate our previous office on Willow Street.”

In 2014, tests confirmed the presence of toxic black mould and Chysosporium fungi, which forced the evacuation of 330 of the council’s 520 staff.

As far back as 2020, the council held talks with Wills Bond and Co to develop a new building on the site of the mass-timber building, and plans were finalised in December 2021.

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  • Wood Central

    Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media across all digital platforms. Our vision is to develop an integrated platform for media, events, education, and products that connect, inform, and inspire the people and organisations who work in and promote forestry, timber, and fibre.

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