NZ Wood launches Timber Design Guides

Following a one-day conference that discussed why wood manufacturing matters, especially in our regions, WPMA’s wood design guide manager Andy van Houtte has launched ‘Design for Fire Safety’, the first of NZ Wood’s design guides in booklet form.


NZ Wood’s Timber Design Guides are aimed at architects, engineers, developers, quantity surveyors, building consent officials and other professionals to enable them to better understand the advantages of modern engineered wood products and timber systems, confident that recommendations are in line with all current applicable standards.

Mr van Houtte says the majority of New Zealand’s technical timber research organisations and developers have pooled their resources and expertise to produce the guides. Originally envisioned as a series of five booklets, but have since become at least 54 (pending funding), the guides are expected to be rolled out over the next 18 months and funded by contributions from forestry, wood processing, research and timber technology groups.

It’s hoped the guides will promote the uptake of prefabricated timber components and engineered wood products in New Zealand’s construction sector, and help medium-rise timber buildings to be confidently specified.

Mr van Houtte says it is an exciting time for timber. “Timber construction is becoming accepted for commercial and multi-storey buildings, and as a preferred material for prefabrication. Its seismic resilience properties are well proven, and it has strong environmental credentials.

“The new guides should ensure good design, accurate costings and easy consenting. With timber’s whole-of-life and proven recycling attributes, a more sustainable built environment can result as well.”


Timber expert Professor Andy Buchanan explains that the guides will replace the old ‘pink book’ for engineering and architecture professionals, and will demonstrate the careful science behind the facts contained in the guides – which will be able to refute any spurious claims made by competing structural material proponents.

Dr Helen Anderson, chair of BRANZ, Scion and MBIE’s building advisory panel, agrees. “Good-quality information needs to be readily available to professionals, and misapprehensions about timber’s structural integrity can be quickly dispelled,” she says. “At a recent conference, a UK speaker blamed timber in part for the Grenfell Tower fire of 2017 rather than the aluminium cladding and insulation. Such attitudes urgently need to be challenged.”

Science proving timber’s excellent resistance to fire is one reason the ‘Fire Safety Guide’ was the first to be released. Second will be the ‘Designing for Prefabrication Guide’ which is expected to be available in May.

Ultimately, Mr van Houtte would like to see a cloud-based, searchable library available through a dedicated timber design centre, although the guides will be available individually through the WPMA in the meantime.

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