Plant and Food Research

Plant and Food Research Centre
Nelson, New Zealand
Jerram Tocker Barron Architects
Scott Construction
Completed 2017
Structural Engineer
Sylvester Clark Consulting Engineers


Headquarters to a large offshore fishing fleet, major fish processing companies and the Government-owned seafood research facility, Nelson has long been a centre for the NZ seafood industry.

Until recently, crown agency Plant and Food Research has had to support the industry from inferior facilities on scattered sites. The new Seafood Research Centre brings these operations together in a purpose-designed building located right at Port Nelson, cementing the city as the seafood capital of New Zealand.

Designed by architects Jerram Tocker Barron, the building houses varied research functions across the seafood value chain, from understanding the genetics of fish through to how aquaculture practices or harvesting technologies impact on fish quality, to processing, food safety and understanding the molecules that can be extracted from our marine resources.

Very importantly, it provides staff with a connective, open environment that promotes collaboration, both internally and with industry partners, to support innovative thinking.

Structural system

Innovation starts with the building itself. The reclaimed land required a light construction solution, timber being an obvious choice. Apart from 15 m long piles penetrating the old seabed to support a concrete ground floor, all main components are wood.

The structural design hinges on the use of locally manufactured, light weight prefabricated engineered timber components. The two storey offices and administration building incorporates a blend of products from XLam, Nelson Pine Industries and Potius Building Systems.

The main structural support and shear walls comprise XLam 5-layer 130mm thick CLT panels rising full height of the building, and connected to the floor slab by cast-in projecting steel dowels over which the factory-drilled panels were lowered, with epoxy adhesive inserted once the panels were positioned. The walls were rapidly installed, and wrapped against weather until the building was enclosed. The XLam walls support a Potius floor fabricated from LVL, while bracing to the open south wall is provided by LVL cross columns.

Floor levels are linked by XLam AirStairs which provide a strong design feature to the double height entry. Much of the mass timber is clear-finished, delivering warmth and ambience to the interior.

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