More than 60 architects, engineers, academics and others associated with the development of EXPAN gathered in Christchurch in December 2010 to celebrate the launch of the revolutionary new timber construction technology.
The event was the first in the EXPAN Lunchtime Series, an ongoing programme of activities that will introduce the technology and its advances to architects, engineers, developers and others.
EXPAN is a range of pre-stressed, prefabricated timber technologies developed by the Structural Timber Innovation Company.
It offers all the benefits of steel and concrete, but with the flexibility, aesthetic benefits and sustainability of wood. EXPAN’s unique engineered timber based technology allows for timber to be used in multi-storey and longspan buildings – traditionally the preserve of concrete and steel. It also makes possible very open plan, very flexible building layouts without the need for closely spaced columns or walls.
University of Canterbury Vice Chancellor Professor Ian Town welcomed attendees to the event with a speech that focused on the power of commercial/academic partnerships, and the strength that each contributes in bringing new technologies to life and to the wider economy.
STIC CEO Robert Finch outlined how the technology came about and spoke of the worldwide demand for products that are lighter, more durable and eco-friendly. Robert also spoke about the step change in engineered timber construction competitiveness that is expected to result from the research, development and commercialisation programme that EXPAN has embarked upon.
Professor Andy Buchanan, Research Director for STIC, informed the audience of the early work that was carried out in the Civil Engineering laboratories of Canterbury University, during which the first post-tensioned hollow section engineered timber experiments were carried out. This eventually resulted in the invention of large-scale pre-stressed timber frames and walls. The work was highly innovative and enabled STIC to form a long-term vision for engineered timber in the commercial and industrial building sectors.
Engineer and Holmes Consulting Group Director John Hare gave an overview of how timely it is that New Zealand is making the most of its natural resource and its engineering and design talent. He also highlighted the importance of the technology in supporting a new generation of building design as it moves away from ‘controlled failure’ to ‘damage avoidance’ – creating structures that are still economically feasible, despite a major earthquake or other devastating event.
Carter Holt Harvey Wood Products is a commercial partner in STIC and sponsored the EXPAN event. For Sales and Marketing Manager Alan Bones, EXPAN represents the opportunity for New Zealand to access important commercial construction markets in which the country has been unable to participate until now.
The environmental benefits that EXPAN delivers are key, he says, enabling the construction of multi-storey and long-span commercial buildings in timber – something that hasn’t been possible before.
New Zealand and Australia are the immediate focus for the EXPAN marketing team, which will look to wider opportunities within the next two to five years.