Engineered timber versus concrete and steel for commercial buildings - what's the cost difference?

Using engineered timber instead of concrete and steel on commercial buildings may not be a lot more expensive, big construction firm Naylor Love says

New Zealand's largest private construction firm with 700 staff and $600 million turnover, Naylor Love has developed a calculator that quantifies the amount of carbon in building structures using different materials.

The calculator is based on a report commissioned by Naylor Love and authored by sustainability experts thinkstep-anz. The research project modelled a typical six-storey commercial building constructed two ways - engineered timber versus conventional concrete and steel.

The engineered timber model reduced carbon emissions by up to 90 percent, Naylor Love said. Engineered timber is large prefabricated components of solid wood glued together with high strength glues.

The Green Building Council says the built environment is responsible for about 20 per cent of New Zealand's carbon emissions. About half of that comes from the operation of buildings through the use of electricity and fossil fuels for heating, lighting and ventilation and the rest from "embodied carbon" emitted during the manufacture and construction of a building and its materials.

Naylor Love business development director Scott Watson said clients wanted to be more sustainable and needed the facts and figures that provided the rationale for their decisions.

"The goal is to provide data that quickly demonstrates carbon benefits of engineered wood over alternative materials, alongside a cost-benefit analysis."

Wood was essential in moving New Zealand to a carbon-neutral economy. It was sustainable, renewable and less energy-intensive to process compared to other construction materials.

"The net total cost difference for an engineered timber structure can be as low as a few percent of the total building cost.

"For this, you can achieve about a 90 percent reduction in carbon emissions."

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