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Sustainable timber seismic design shows the way for new era in resilient buildings


Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology Arts and Media Building

13 October 2011 - New Zealand’s landmark timber structural demonstration building has won further acclaim at Tuesday night’s New Zealand Wood Timber Design awards held in Auckland.

The Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology Arts and Media Building (NMIT) picked up three awards:

  • Winner: Commercial Engineering Excellence
  • Winner: Commercial Architectural Excellence
  • Winner: Clever Wood Solutions

Designed by structural engineers, Aurecon, the NMIT Arts and Media building is the first in a new generation of multi storey timber buildings. It employs an advanced damage avoidance earthquake design that is a world first for a timber building. This revolutionary earthquake technology has been developed by Aurecon structural engineers and is based on the latest timber research from the University of Canterbury. The building also employs several new timber structural systems for floors, beams and columns that truly demonstrate the ability of structural timber for use in multi storey construction

Laminated veneer lumber (LVL) was used as it has strength properties that allow for the fabrication of beams, columns and walls at sizes similar to those used in concrete or steel designs. 

The project was the subject of a national design competition sponsored by the New Zealand Government to realise a building whose structural form uses and showcases its construction in timber and encourages the future use of timber in the design and construction of multi-level commercial buildings. All structural timber components were grown, milled, manufactured and erected within an 80 km radius of Nelson.

Aurecon Technical Director and lead structural engineer for the NMIT project, Carl Devereux, says “We have seen huge interest in this project from overseas groups as it showcases a new era in the sustainable design of resilient buildings so beautifully. A huge amount of research went into the use of timber and in particular using the LVL systems. After the devastating Christchurch earthquakes, our research and innovation around using other timber systems has increased three-fold. The next best thing to watch out for in leading seismic design solutions is the use of CLT.”

This is not the end of the awards season for the NMIT building as it has been announced as a finalist at the globally prestigious UK Structural Awards 2011. Established in 1968, the Structural Awards recognise and reward the work of the world’s most talented structural designers, their indispensable contribution to the built environment and showcase projects that lead the industry's development. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony being held in London on 18 November 2011.

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