CREDITS: Scion Research / Project Manager / QS: RDT Pacific / Architect: RTA Studio + Irving Smith Architects / Engineer: Dunning Thornton Consultants
Scion Hub: A three-storey seismic resistant diagrid design, Rotorua, New Zealand
Scion is a NZ Crown research institute that specialises in research, science and technology development for the forest, wood and wood-derived materials and other biomaterial sectors.
TimberLab was involved early in the design phase of this iconic structure under an ECI (Early Contractor Involvement) agreement to assist the design team with DfMA (Design for Manufacture and Assembly) principles. The ECI agreement also allowed TimberLab to commit to production and allocate appropriate manufacture space. Our experience in complex and bespoke manufacturing was instrumental in helping to resolve and refine the structural timber system. Early collaboration meant we were able to explore options at concept phase, which in turn ensured the final design was efficient to manufacture, both in time and cost and was suitable for rapid site assembly.
TimberLab’s skills in digital manufacturing made us the ideal supply partner for this three storey diagrid design project. Our draughting team completed an accurate 3D model of over 5,000 parts that made up the LVL diagrid, LVL floor and roof framing, Glulam entry beams and custom metalwork connections.
The LVL diagrid alone required the rapid CNC processing of 4,248 parts of LVL to enable us to laminate the 88 finished diamond and triangle-shaped frames. TimberLab’s expertise in CAM + CNC processing, backed up with our modern manufacturing equipment allowed us to utilise multiple CNC machines in tandem to complete this process with consistency and speed.
The sections were all prefabricated and delivered complete with fittings to the site in Rotorua where a specialist team assembled all the pieces. TimberLab also supplied the Glulam and cross laminated timber entry canopies.
TimberLab worked with Dunning Thornton and Scion to manufacture test joints. This allowed for proof testing of the diagrid nodes prior to finalising the design.
With no precedence in NZ, such an ambitious design meant that developing the diagrid node connections and understanding their ability to withstand the load demands was critical to a successful outcome.
Diagrids are an efficient way to provide strength and stiffness and require less material than traditional structures. To make sure they were 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 to try (unsuccessfully) to twist the horizontal component.
Doug Gaunt, Science Leader for Wood Processing at Scion, said that all the pieces tested, passed with flying colours. “Both the elements tested, comfortably performed even at the maximum design loads the engineers had calculated.”
Now completed, the ground floor is open to the public and showcases not only the innovative structure, but also Scion’s research across the forest and biomass value chain.
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