Scion Innovation Hub: A Timber Diagrid Structure that Redefines Sustainability in Building Design

New Zealand's Scion Innovation Hub Wins 2021 PEFC Best Use of Certified Timber Prize.

Thu 16 Feb 23


The Scion Innovation Hub, Te Whare Nui o Tuteata, is a research facility located in Rotorua, New Zealand, designed by RTA Studio + Irving Smith Architects, featuring a unique diagrid structure made entirely of timber manufactured by TimberLab.

The building’s innovative design has been recognized globally, securing the 2021 Best Use of Certified Timber Prize supported by PEFC at the World Architecture Festival. It was also the winner of the World Architecture Festival WAF in the category Completed Buildings -–Higher Education and Research.

Reflecting on the project in the latest Wood Central Podcast now available for download through iTunes, leading World Architecture Festival judge Mark Thomson commended the project for its innovative diagrid structure; its focus away from gravity mass timber buildings to geometrically stiffened forms to help in earthquake conditions.

He also noted that the building achieved embodied carbon zero at the time of completion and showcased dovetail node joints which slot together, in an expression of craftsmanship and beauty.

Named after Tuteata, an ancestor of the three local subtribes ‘Te Whare Nui o Tuteata’ is a cutting-edge showcase for engineered timber not only in terms of the aesthetic but what it contributes to a carbon-zero future. A trio of ‘peaks’ in gluelam timber, representative of the three hapu in the region, stand proud and tall at the entrance. (Photo credits: Patrick Reynolds).

Background: The Scion Innovation Hub was created to showcase the latest innovations in sustainable building design. The project’s architects (RTA Studio + Irving Smith Architects) and engineers (Dunning Thornton Consultants) were challenged to create a building that met the highest standards of sustainability while also being functional and aesthetically pleasing. The building’s unique diagrid structure manufactured by Timberlab and made entirely of timber was a key factor in achieving these goals.

Challenges: The Scion Innovation Hub’s architects and engineers faced several challenges, including designing a sustainable building that met the needs of a research facility while being flexible and adaptable. The use of timber in the diagrid structure was an essential element in overcoming these challenges.

Solution: The Scion Innovation Hub’s diagrid structure was made entirely of timber sourced from sustainably managed forests in New Zealand. The use of timber provided a combination of strength, durability, and sustainability, making it an ideal choice for a building that promotes sustainable building design.

By using engineered timber made from sustainably grown pine and putting more thought into the operational characteristics of a building, the building significantly contributes to New Zealand’s carbon-zero future to leave a much lighter footprint on the land. (Photo credits: Patrick Reynolds).

Results: The Scion Innovation Hub’s use of timber in the diagrid structure has secured the project multiple awards. The building’s innovative design, sustainability features, and use of timber impressed the festival’s judges and helped to set a new benchmark for sustainable building design.

Conclusion: The Scion Innovation Hub’s use of timber in the diagrid structure has contributed to its success at the 2021 World Architecture Festival and its status as a sustainable building design benchmark. The project’s architects and engineers have demonstrated the potential of timber as a building material in the 21st century, proving that it can provide a unique combination of strength, durability, and sustainability. The Scion Innovation Hub stands as a remarkable example of sustainable building design and a testament to the importance of using environmentally responsible building materials.

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