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Supreme winner in NZ Wood Resene Timber Design Awards

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A distinctive visual impact was a key attribute for this warm, characterful project

This school construction benefits from the warmth and character of wood


From extensive use of laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and cross laminated timber (CLT) in homes to multi-storey commercial buildings, this year’s entries for the NZ Wood Resene Timber Design Awards showed modern applications of wood are providing cost effective solutions


The Cathedral Grammar Junior School by Ruamoko Solutions & Andrew Barrie Lab took out the The Resene Supreme Award. The entry also won Timberlab Solutions Ltd’s Commercial Architectural Excellence section and was highly commended in the XLam NZ/Nelson Pine Industries’ Engineering Innovation category.

Built as part of the post-quake reconstruction of Christchurch, this classroom block for a private inner-city school overlooks Hagley Park. The design sought to create a ‘garden school’ and in contrast to most new schools, which mimic offices or institutional spaces, this project is characterised by its extensive use of timber, imbuing the spaces with warmth and character. The complex Pinus Radiata Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) structure combines traditional timber jointing techniques and up-to-the-minute fabrication technology. The design pushed the limits of new computer-controlled timber milling technology to allow the economical use of exacting traditional timber joints - precisely interlocking rebates and mortice-and-tenon joints - normally thought too expensive or technically demanding.

The timber elements were meticulously designed and manufactured to ensure structural performance and perfect fit. The pre-cut timber elements arrived on site complete down to the smallest hole and rebate allowing the complex structure to simply be slotted together on site, resulting in rapid construction and significant labour savings. The result is a complex timber building that appears effortless - cabling, fixings, flashings and other cluttering elements are either invisible or seamlessly absorbed. The result of 21st century craftsmanship, the completed spaces are open and light – the interior linked smoothly with the landscaping and surroundings to create a rich, flexible learning environment.

Project Team:


Architects: Andrew Barrie Lab & Tezuka Architects

Structural Engineers: Ruamoko Solutions & Ohno Japan

Builder: Contract Construction

LVL Fabricator: TimberLab Solutions

What the judges said:

“Cathedral Grammar stands out as an example of what can be achieved with effective collaboration and innovation in timber design, fabrication and construction,” said judges. “The expression of the structural timber frames at a human scale is inviting, and promotes a tactile response from young occupants.”

What the principal said:
“The Junior School design is a Japanese concept consisting of seven classrooms, a common room, office, and amenities, all arranged around a central courtyard,” explained Ruamoko principal Grant Wilkinson, FIPENZ, CPEng. “The project attracted a lot of positive attention from passers-by during construction, and the contractors all thoroughly enjoyed working on the building.”

This is a fully interlocking CNC-cut, laminated veneer lumber (LVL) timber structure which arrived on site ready to assemble. The LVL frames had been meticulously designed and manufactured to ±0.5mm accuracy to ensure a perfect fit and structural performance.

“This construction technique is likely a first for New Zealand and certainly for Christchurch, and the building is a showcase for engineering, carpentry and craftsmanship,” said Wilkinson.

First published date: 15 March 2017

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