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Quake-friendly engineered wood firm gets first orders in Christchurch

Tuesday 27th March 2012

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Structural Timber Innovation Co, which makes engineered construction lumber able to stand up to earthquakes, has won its first two orders for buildings in Christchurch.

The company, whose shareholders include Carter Holt Harvey, Western Australia-based Wesbeam, Sumitomo Forestry, Canterbury and Auckland universities and Sydney’s University of Technology, is marketing its Expan product made from multiple layers of thin laminated veneer timber.

The Christchurch projects add to seven existing buildings using the engineered wood in New Zealand and Structural Timber says sales are set to grow as more than 260 companies across Australasia have signed up licences to use the Expan technology.

A number of commercial enquiries have come from Wellington, according to a spokeswoman. The capital city has more than 200 buildings deemed earthquake prone by the city council and commercial real estate signs now often include a reassurance that a building is ‘seismically compliant’.

Using Expan wood costs about the same as building in steel or concrete for an open plan low-medium rise building, the company says.

The lightweight material has the extra benefit of being able to be deconstructed and rebuilt on a different site relatively simply, minimising business interruption, it says.

“Seismic qualities are what everyone is looking for in this part of the world,” said Structural Timber chief executive Robert Finch.

The engineered timber could be used for multi-storied buildings up to 10 storeys high though Finch said he recognised Christchurch residents favoured a low-rise rebuild of their city, the Star newspaper reported.

The company has also fielded enquires from residential builders who want resistance to seismic activity, it said.

Advances in timber technology are helping to drive the use of timber around the world, which has enabled new design possibilities and applications.


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