Why not a LVL plant for Wairoa?

Wairoa Star, Wairoa East Coast by STUART NASH 10 Aug 2017

ON WEDNESDAY afternoon I was the guest speaker at the launch of Sir Bob Jones’ new commercial wooden building in Wellington. At 12 storeys, it will be the tallest commercial wooden building in the world. It is notable for a number of reasons.

First of all, as we on the East Coast know very well, we are a country that grows trees better than most, and yet 60 percent of logs harvested are exported without a cent of value being added.

This is an issue I have been grappling with in my roles as spokesman for forestry and economic development.

I refuse to believe the status quo is the most optimal way forward for our forest and wood processing industry and I’ve been researching solutions where the government and private sector can work together to drive growth in innovative technologies and applications.

Second, it has been proven time and again, that wood has far more structural integrity than steel or concrete in an earthquake. Tests undertaken by the University of Canterbury’s School of Engineering validate this.

Why we have persisted with steel and concrete for so long in the face of overwhelming evidence suggesting that these are, in fact, not the best building materials, is beyond me and shows a real inability to ‘think outside the box’ by our architects and engineers.

Third, is that we go to the world with a global brand based on ‘clean green 100 percent pure’ and yet we very much struggle to live this brand ourselves.

Seven years ago I wrote about the possibility of Christchurch being the world’s first truly eco-city, with office blocks being built entirely out of wood, but disappointingly, those responsible for the rebuild lacked the vision to understand what was possible and so stayed traditional and true to form with concrete and steel.

Very disappointing.

Fourthly, wood still contains over 50 percent of the carbon stored within the tree when it was growing. Cutting a tree down does not release all the carbon (as assumed by climate change models) and so building out of wood actually helps achieve our climate change targets (as opposed to the production of steel and concrete, which creates substantial carbon).

Finally, if this is the beginning of something truly evolutionary in the construction sector and building out of wood really takes off, then it means more jobs and value created in New Zealand.

The wood expected to come out of Wairoa over the next few years is substantial. Such innovations can only be good. A Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) plant for Wairoa? Why not! Bob Jones has been an innovative (and, at times, polarising) character for decades now. He actually designed this building himself. No one in New Zealand, and arguably the world, knows more about commercial buildings than Sir Bob. He has taken all this knowledge and vision and passion done something amazing. Hopefully the pack will now follow the leader.

This can only be a great thing for New Zealand.

The wood expected to come out of Wairoa over the next few years is substantial.

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