Now we know: An overview of our first Knowledge Breakfast with Andy Buchanan

 In Knowledge Centre

Our first Knowledge breakfast was held in a venue befitting our timber-led topic. The Canterbury Club played host to 20 hand-picked guests and the Joseph’s & Associates team, while PTL Director, Andy Buchanan, talked about the benefits of using timber in construction.

The morning began with our own Linda Lodetti, introducing the speaker and the reason behind Joseph’s team deciding to create the Knowledge Breakfasts; “it’s a platform to share insights into Christchurch’s rebuild challenges and to find new solutions.”

Andy set the scene with a picture of Christchurch before and after the devasting earthquakes that resulted in the demolition of approx. 1500 of reinforced concrete buildings. Concrete structures have since been replaced by steel and hybrid construction – new solutions emerged following reports such as the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission Vol 3 Low Damage Building Technologies that defined three earthquake scenarios that buildings should be designed for.

The talk introduced types of structure we can use: stick framing (columns and beams), panelised  and volumetric, as well as types of timber solutions including: Glulam  (Timber lab, Techlam, Prolam), laminated veneer lumber (LVL), Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) panels and Prefinished Prefabricated Volumetric Construction (PPVC). Each timber solution having their own purpose and outcomes.

Andy reinforced the reasons why timber structures should be considered more often:

  • Less time on site is offset with MORE time up-front design (this is a huge mind shift for NZ)
  • Require Shop drawings level of detail at early stages
  • More pressure on design services-all parties from Architect, Structural Engineer, Services and Façade Engineers
  • Works best in D&B environment (Design & Build)
  • Early Contractor involvement or ALL parties at same table asap
  • Use of BIM modelling becomes key to facilitate the design process
  • Consideration of the on-site connection details

Andy also talked of projects of note where timber has been used to develop cost-effective, highly flexible structures. A raft of international examples flowed, including the Sumitano Forestry Co, in Japan, led by Andy and the team at PLT. This timber structure won Design awards in NZ (2017) and comprised principles of “rocking frame post-tensioned timber technology” developed to high standards in NZ.

Then came the big question – why is timber not being used more in New Zealand?

The answer is not clear but speculatively, Andy and the team at PLT suggest it is that New Zealand may have an inherently conservative construction approach when it comes to new approaches. With new comes risk and perceptions about fire, durability, noise, consent, constructability, time, cost etc, that need to be overcome.

Can we reduce the risk and raise confidence?

To move forward with timber construction, Andy suggests, will take an integrated design and build approach. New players will need to be educated and significant research and design required to offset risk perceptions.

And finally teamwork!

The response during the Q&A session was also excellent. It was great to stimulate discussion during and after the talk. As mentioned by Andy, this talk is really the tip of the iceberg in terms of understanding and introducing more timber into construction in Christchurch.

For a fuller transcript of the talk or to talk to the Josephs team further about timber construction in the implications from a project perspective, please feel free to contact us at

Thanks to Andy Buchanan of PLT for taking the time to lead our first Knowledge Breakfast. Josephs & Associates has created the Knowledge Breakfasts as we believe in sharing our passions and knowledge, new techniques and interesting ideas with our business community. To get involved or contribute, please contact us.





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