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Nanyang Technological University Academic Building South, Singapore

Aurecon is helping to bring one of the world’s largest mass engineered-timber buildings to life

The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore is a leader in adopting sustainable materials and innovative construction methods for its campus development. Its latest project, Academic Building South (ABS), is no different and will be built largely from Mass Engineered Timber (MET) to be the new home for Nanyang Business School. At 40,000 square metres, it will be one of the largest wooden buildings in Asia upon completion in 2021.

To bring this vision to life, global engineering and infrastructure advisory company Aurecon was engaged to deliver civil and structural engineering services, including consultancy services for the demolition of the existing Innovation Centre, conceptualisation and detailed design of all structural elements, preparation of tender documents, and construction supervision.

Benefits of MET

MET will be used to build the six-storey ABS by adopting a combination of Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) for slabs and Glued Laminated Timber (Glulam) for beams and columns.

The utilisation of MET technology in this project supports the Singapore government’s move towards productivity-driven economic growth. According to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), it reflects the continuing transformation of Singapore’s built environment sector.

Serena Yap, Aurecon’s Project Manager for the project explained that material will be sourced from renewable forests and prefabricated for on-site assembly. Not only does this method reduce dust, debris, and noise pollution on site, it is also faster and requires less labour than traditional building methods.

In addition, MET presents benefits in terms of design and liveability. Timber adds warmth and natural quality interiors, creating an environment conducive to learning and discourse. As the final texture of MET is aesthetically pleasing, no cladding or finishing is needed.

Designing with timber

Designed by Toyo Ito & Associates Architects in collaboration with RSP Architects Planners & Engineers, the architectural vision called for fully exposed MET, which means that there would be no false ceilings to cover the building services. Early collaboration between architectural and engineering design teams was necessary to ensure slabs and beams are cut to specification in factories, including the openings and slots for MEP services.

Furthermore, the early collaboration among the design teams produced an innovative layout of alternating long and short span grids which worked best for lecture theatres/seminar rooms and the corridors leading to them. According to Karthik Ganesan, Aurecon’s Senior Structural Engineer, the idea was to direct all services along the corridors of short spans, forming what would be recognised as the ‘services highway’ and then branch into the long span lecture halls. The short spans meant that the beam depths could be shallower, allowing greater clear space below the beams for the services. This allowed the ABS to stay within the height restrictions for the site.

The exposed MET aesthetic also meant that all steel connections between the load-bearing beams and columns had to be hidden. Aurecon worked out a detail that could easily be built by the contractor and would ensure the steel connections were embedded within the timber. Embedding the steel connections within the timber also helps fire design by keeping the critical load-bearing members protected by a ‘sacrificial’ layer.

Construction of the ABS is expected to be completed in 2021. The building will feature 25 smart classrooms equipped with the latest technologies to support NTU’s flipped classroom pedagogy.

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