The Potential of Radiata Poles as the Main Structural Elements in Apartment Buildings

John Chapman BE MIPENZ, Lecturer, School of Architecture, University of Auckland

Pinus radiata, also known as Monterey pine, has only a very small natural habitat of 7000 acres, which is on the west coast of the USA and Mexico. However, in New Zealand, this species grows exceeding well. Over 1.3 million hectares of land have been planted in pinus radiata and it is the basis of a multibillion-dollar-a–year export industry. The rate at which the planted pinus radiata is maturing and requiring felling will increase continuously over the next 20 years. New technologies and forms of use need to be explored to add export value to this resource.

This paper presents a prototype 6 storey apartment building that is designed with the beams and columns consisting of pinus radiata poles. It addresses the following issues in relation to pole use – environmental effects; strength and non-destructive testing; variability and dimensional stability; economics; fire and sound resistance; prefabrication; transporting and site erection.

The conclusions of this initial research is that pole type buildings would have no disadvantages when compared to those constructed in the usual material of reinforced concrete but should create major advantages for the environment.

Pinus radiata stems are a renewable resource, require little energy during manufacture and absorb carbon from the atmosphere, thus reducing green house gases. A pole building structure will store more carbon within its timber than is released into the atmosphere during manufacture. This suggests these buildings may provide a carbon credit to the developer.

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