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University of Canterbury researches timber engineering

New Zealand has vast reserves of renewable forests and much of this timber is used in the residential construction of new housing. Source: Scoop News

However, very little of it is used in the commercial sector for large buildings and approximately 50% of the timber harvested is exported as logs.

The University of Canterbury (UC) has produced ground breaking research in timber engineering which has been on-going in a variety of fields for many years.
UC is researching fire resistance issues to speed up the use of timber products in the New Zealand construction industry.

Timber buildings will play a vital role in the Christchurch rebuild and world class research is being conducted at UC to aid in achieving this goal.

Research by PhD student James O’Neill, under the supervision of Professor Andy Buchanan, involves testing full size floors in a large furnace under loads to determine how they may behave in a building fire.

“Timber floors have been shown to exhibit very good performance in fires in the past due to their slow rate of burning and the formation of a protective char layer, and this research aims to better estimate the behaviour of timber floors in fires and how engineers can design them in the real world for better fire performance,’’ O’Neill said.

“Widespread use of timber as one of the main structural elements in tall buildings in the modern environment is inhibited as timber is a combustible material and commonly thought to behave poorly in fires.

“With the issue of sustainability becoming increasingly prevalent on the agendas of major corporations and governments worldwide, timber as a structural material is fast becoming the most viable alternative to other materials such as concrete and steel.

“The ever increasing population of the planet is putting a strain on the limited natural resources available, and the most logical primary building material of the future must be completely renewable. Timber fills this void as both a completely renewable and environmentally friendly material.

“Timber is aesthetically pleasing, simple to build with and extremely versatile, enabling many different types of building to be constructed for a wide range of applications.

“Making better use of the vast renewable timber resources available in New Zealand is the first step towards a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future. Timber buildings will play a vital role in this regard, and the world class research being conducted at the University of Canterbury will aid in achieving this goal,’’ O’Neill said.