Michael Williamson, Design Engineer at Holmes ANZ recently attended the World Conference on Timber Engineering (WCTE) in Oslo, Norway, after being awarded a scholarship by the NZ Timber Design Society. We had the pleasure of catching up with Michael to hear more about his amazing trip and what he learned about what’s new in the world of timber.
Q: How did you end up going on this trip? What was the process for being selected?
Michael: I was awarded a scholarship from the Timber Design Society. The application was a two-page proposal about how to increase the uptake of engineered timber in NZ. My proposal focused on how to give NZ practitioners the confidence to solve engineered timber challenges through sharing challenges and solutions on real world projects. There is plenty of uncertainty around many aspects of the delivery of engineered timber projects, and we need to share successes and failures on our NZ projects to help reduce this uncertainty and advance our industry.
Q: What inspired you to apply?
Michael: After working on a mass timber project, I found that I enjoyed the technical challenge of timber, so I to gain exposure to the wider industry. Designing in timber is a great way to reduce carbon emissions from construction, so it’s an opportunity for us structural engineers make a difference towards mitigating climate change. Going to Europe was a bonus too!”
Q: What was the top 3 take aways from the event?
Michael: My main learnings were around how the the world of timber is changing in regard to structural engineering.
- Fire performance is still the most limiting, challenging and contentious aspect of mass timber buildings. There were a lot more questions than answers.
- CLT is really becoming the hot engineered timber product. It’s being used for diaphragms, floor plates in point supported contexts (no gravity beams) and walls as part of the lateral frame. There appears to be strong potential for CLT, but there is still plenty of research and work to be done to increase its uptake.
- It’s a lot easier to design a mid or high rise mass timber building in regions without earthquakes, but there are some cutting-edge, seismically resistant timber buildings coming out of the West Coast of the States and the Pacific Northwest. We should start to see similar buildings popping up around NZ in the next few years.
Q: In your opinion, where do you think NZ ranks currently in relation to the rest of the engineering world when it comes to mass timber and sustainability?
Michael: NZ is a bit behind Europe in regard to the uptake of mass timber, however, our regulations around reducing our construction emissions to achieve the national net zero carbon emissions 2050 target should push us to be a leader in sustainability. There is good reason why NZ is probably a bit behind – we have to deal with a significant seismic hazard, and the knowledge around the seismic performance of mass timber buildings is still developing. In my opinion, NZ ranks near the front for mass timber engineering in regions of high seismicity – perhaps this also says that there is still a bit of work to do in this field.
Q: Tell us one weird thing you ate/drank/saw/did while at the conference.
Michael: I tried reindeer at a restaurant after the conference!
Congratulations from all of us at Holmes ANZ on winning the scholarship!