The Waiheke Island Community Library exemplifies the intersection of construction, architecture, fine art and natural elements in timber construction. The library won overall winner and Commercial Architectural Excellence category in the New Zealand Wood-Resene Timber Design Awards announced last week.

The awards included eight categories from residential and commercial architectural excellence, innovation and novel applications of wood.

The library "is a lyrical response to the idea of a timber library building, and a robust yet visually appealing statement," said judges of the competition.

"The variety of timber applications...become apparent as you delve into the details of this building," the judges said in response to the Commercial Architectural Excellence category. "This is clear and subtle architecture enjoyable at many levels, from the spatial manipulation of the timber roof trusses, to the symbolism of the inclined roof support columns, fine detailing and craft work in the exterior timber screen."

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Phillip Howard, Director of Pacific Environments Architects, explained that the company's inspiration for the library was taken from the grove of pohutukawa trees on the site. The library's interior is meant to give the illusion of sitting under a pohutukawa forest.

"Extensive use of sculptured timber battens bathed in natural light gives the illusion of movement within the building, and close collaboration with resident artist Kazu Nakagawa ensuredit is as much 'art' as community resource," said judges.

The competition saw twice the number of entries as last year's contest, which the Award's organiser Debbie Fergie believes confirms wood's growing popularity for modern and eco-friendly building projects.

"Timber is a renewable resource providing whole-of-life credibility," Fergie says. "There are now so many exciting ways it's being used - it's visually inspiring and can be incredibly strong and flexible at the same time."

Timber is increasingly accepted worldwide as a viable substitute for steel and concrete framing, especially in commercial construction. Timber can be engineered to increase its strength and flexibility. Moreover, timber is produced in New Zealand, keeping money in its economy.

Engineered timber also took centre stage at the Awards as Te Uru Taumatua, the new home of Ngai Tuhoe, called New Zealand's "most sustainable building", was highly commended in the Engineering Innovation category. The building features a glulam, glue-laminated timbre, arch supporting the front entrance.

Wynn Williams House and Trimble Navigation's offices, also made extensive use of engineered timber, were joint winners of the same category.

Both buildings were designed and built in Christchurch, and feature exposed structural components and connections that allow the building to be visually checked and any elements replaced in the event of an earthquake. These structures use cross-laminated timber and laminated veneer lumber which create strong but light structures compared to steel or concrete buildings, making building on unstable soil.

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Rotorua Lakes Council Mayor Steve Chadwick was awarded the inaugural "Wood First" Award for her leadership role in making the implementing New Zealand's first 'wood first' policy in the region. The policy facilitates and encourages the use of wood as a preferred and sustainable product.

In fact, the wood industry contributes an estimated nine percent of Rotorua's GDP, and is the largest direct employer in the area. 40 percent of all wood harvested nationally comes from within a 100km radius of the city.

The Awards hope to highlight the innovations Kiwi companies are employing to an age-old industry that can benefit both the environment and New Zealand's citizens and economy.

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