Homes of the futureSave
By Donna Fleming
We Kiwis have a long history of, and great fondness for, wooden homes. And now wooden buildings - or specifically those made of a specially engineered timber - look set to become the homes of the future, says Martin Udale.
He's the director of Tall Wood, a company that makes a kind of manufactured wood, known as tall timber. It has joined forces with property developer Twenty Twenty Property Partners to build apartments using this material at Hobsonville Point.
Their development, The Grounds, will be the first of its kind in New Zealand, but this technology is widely used overseas, with high-rise buildings in Canada, Austria and Australia being constructed from tall timber.
"There's a big trend internationally towards using engineered timber - it has been used in Europe for over 40 years - and it is well-proven, just not in this part of the world where we don't know a lot about it," says Martin.
"We're hoping The Grounds will start to change that. And people do like wood - you don't ever hear of anyone hugging a concrete post!"
There are two types of tall timber - cross laminate timber (CLT), which is used in floors and roofs, and laminated veneer lumber (LVL ), suitable for beams and columns.
CLT comes in huge slabs, and is akin to pre-cast concrete and extremely strong, says Martin.
Where the product really comes into its own is not just its strength, but its sustainability.
Wood is a renewable resource and the lumber used in Tall Wood's products is not only low energy with less wastage and a lighter carbon footprint, but it comes from "well-managed plantation forests, and is not ripped from an original jungle," Martin says.
"While there is a place for concrete and steel, they do use a lot of energy in their production and create a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. I think in the next 10 years there will be a massive uptake in the use of engineered timber."
Another benefit of this type of timber is that, when used with good ventilation design, homes constructed from it stay warm in winter and cool in summer.
"These apartments should need very little in the way of heating and nothing in the way of cooling, so you don't have to have air conditioning going," says Martin.
He adds that using engineered timber in construction helps to keep costs down. Studies show that tall timber buildings are about 9-14 per cent cheaper than traditionally constructed buildings.
"You can create a very good price point and at the same time you are getting something that is very nice to live in."
There will be 42 one- and two-bedroom apartments available in The Grounds, where architect Peddle Thorp mixes edgy industrial style with organic textures and contemporary colour palettes.
They are laid out to make the most of space, creating generous living areas that lead out to north-facing balconies.
A lot of thought went into the design of communal areas like stairwells, hallways and landings, says Martin.
"We made them generous to encourage the residents to stop and talk to each other. We wanted to make The Grounds a small community, set within the bigger community that is Hobsonville Point."
Hobsonville Point has become one of the most sought-after housing areas in Auckland. As well as a variety of housing, the suburb has plenty of drawcards, like the farmers' market and the 4km coastal walkway.
It's easy to get into the city thanks to the ferry terminal, but it's also just a few minutes to the motorway. Westgate and Albany Westfield are a short drive away, and Takapuna and Muriwai Beaches and Woodhill Forest are not far away.