High-tech timber industry gears up for world conference

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Expan produces engineered timber structural beams, frames, columns and joists as an alternative to steel and concrete. Photo / Supplied
Expan produces engineered timber structural beams, frames, columns and joists as an alternative to steel and concrete. Photo / Supplied

Superior disaster resilience of new high tech engineered timber products are being touted at a world timber conference being held Auckland next week.

More than 500 timber professionals from all over the world will gather at the Skycity Convention Centre for the World Conference on Timber Engineering, running July 15-19.

Much of the discussion will be centred around industry trends such as the emergence of cross-laminated timber, said Hugh Morris, senior lecturer of Auckland University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Described by Morris as as being like "over-sized plywood", cross-laminated timber can be produced in massive sheets and used to construct multi-storey buildings.

Not only is it incredibly fast to erect, but a huge benefit of building using cross-laminated timber is its performance in earthquakes and its "post-disaster resilience", Morris said.

He foresees a growth in demand for such engineered timber products due to the Christchurch rebuild.

"I'm hoping that New Zealand industry will grow as as result of what's going on in Christchurch. Then we will be able to export whole buildings that can be assembled on site overseas," Morris said.

"So, we could have the design and manufacturing happening at home."

In its first time in the Southern Hemisphere, the world conference will attract professionals in engineering, architecture, construction, manufacturing, and research.

It is being jointly hosted with Australia and will provide a forum for professionals to exchange ideas about the latest technological advances, research results and design innovations.

Conference organiser Wendy Boyce said 515 people have so far registered for the conference, including 115 Kiwis, 100 from Japan, 27 from China, 18 from Sweden and 37 from Canada.

"A big part of it is a networking opportunity to bring together people from the industry," Boyce said.

One local company presenting at the conference will be Canterbury-based Expan, which manufactures pre-fabricated timber systems specifically for non-residential industrial and commercial buildings.

It takes laminated veneer lumber (LVL), an engineered wood product using multiple layers of thin wood, and turns it into structural beams, frames, columns and joists.

Four international industry leaders will speak during the event.

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