Scion’s new Innovation Hub is taking shape

Progress is quick on Scion’s Innovation Hub. Photo taken on 21 August 2019.

The new three-storey building under construction on our Rotorua campus has been described as an ambitiously designed structure. It showcases the latest in engineered timber products and manufacturing techniques within its unique and challenging structural form, while using products that meet our preferences for sustainability and environmental performance. The predominant feature is the timber components constructed with painstaking precision and assembled into diagonal grids.

Diagonal grids (diagrids) are an efficient way to provide strength and stiffness and require less material than traditional structures.

Diagrid components arrived on site ready to assemble in July 2019 and were erected by a specialist team. This process is further sped up because most of the building happens offsite, making onsite construction quicker and quieter compared to many other construction styles.

Scion’s diagrid is unusual as it is nearly entirely made of timber. The diagrid wall frames and floor/roof beams have been manufactured by TimberLab from precision-cut laminated veneer lumber (LVL). The diamond and triangle diagrid sections were prefabricated and delivered complete with fittings to the site.

To make sure the diagrid was up to the job, the strength of the components was tested at Scion. An apex portion was subjected to 45 tonnes of downward pressure then pulled upward by a 31.5 tonne force. A node section, where diagrid components are integrated with a horizontal member, was subjected to 20 tonnes of compression in an attempt to twist the horizontal component.

Doug Gaunt, Science Leader for Wood and Fibre at Scion, says all the pieces tested passed with flying colours. “Both the elements tested comfortably performed even at the maximum design loads the engineers had calculated.”

The 2,000 m2 facility consists of diagrid LVL wall frames, LVL floor/roof beams, cross laminated timber (CLT) floor and lift shaft panels, Glulam (glued laminated timber) and CLT entry canopies as well as structural steel to support the glazing systems integrated throughout the engineered timber.

Irving Smith Architects, RTA Studio and Dunning Thornton Consultants have collaborated in the design of the building, which features a three-storey timber diagrid with central atrium and wrap-around diagonal curtainwall cladding. The ground floor will be open to the public and showcase not only the innovative structure, but also Scion’s research across the forest and biomass value chains.

Construction is expected to be completed by early 2021.

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