Nelson’s timber terminal at the cutting edge of airport design

As public feedback for Nelson airport’s $32 million terminal redevelopment builds momentum, its use of wood as a primary building material has been praised for being a tribute and a showpiece for the region.

Breaking from the traditional use of concrete and steel, the use of laminated veneer lumber – or LVL – from Nelson Pine Industries will be integral to the structure.

Around 440m3of locally-resourced timber has gone into the project.

The LVL portal legs are cantilevered to provide a lateral bracing system that allows for unobstructed clear open spaces internally.

Twenty-four columns also incorporate a dampening system that can absorb large seismic loads while the roof is a lightweight stress skin panel that acts as the ceiling diaphragm.

Nelson Airport chief executive Rob Evans was excited to have such innovative design used in the ambitious project but admitted there were some initial reservations about the concept.

“It seems like that now but it probably wasn’t back at the start and it took a bit of vision and courage from the architects and the airport to think about that first,” he said.

“Building in timber is still not that prevalent in New Zealand so I think the fact we were able to get a functional building working and do it structurally with the timber is pretty neat.”

While he was aware of its use in several European and American terminals, Evans said in his experience the use of timber in airport terminals was rare in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific.

He said the design was appropriate given the value of the forestry and wood processing industry in the Nelson region.

“In a New Zealand sense particularly it’s very unique and it will set itself apart and it will make a statement about how that industry is so important here.”

The new terminal design was created by Studio Pacific Architecture and is managed by Aesculus Project Management. Dunning Thornton and CGW are the engineers.

The project will take about 24 months to complete with an anticipated completion date of late 2018.

The terminal’s re-development was acknowledged recently by aviation website, alongside a $1 billion upgrade of Nashville Airport, innovative digital walls at Changi Airport and re-developments of terminals in Kuwait and La Guardia in New York.

Evans said a model of the re-development was being created by Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and would be displayed in the present terminal when completed in a few weeks’ time.

Project manager for Nelson Pine Industries Andy Van Houtte said the company was proud to be a part of “a once in a life time opportunity” which would become the envy of other timber-producing regions like the Bay of Plenty.

“It’s the best showcase you could possibly have and when the opportunity came up we jumped at it,” he said.

“We’ve been calling ourselves the engineered wood capital of New Zealand for some time now.”