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MAF Multipurpose Building

Sheltered amongst three mature tōtara and a line of oak trees stands the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s new Multipurpose Building in Wallaceville, Upper Hutt.

Site and Client Brief

The building, which is also the campus centrepiece, is a place of reception and collaboration for the National Centre for Biosecurity and Infectious Disease and the larger scientific community. The client required a multi-functional building which could easily transform, if necessary, into a response centre and enable a number of agencies to work under one roof in the event of a disease outbreak or emergency. It acts as a gateway building terminating the approach onto the site. The two corridors off this axis each end with vistas of the tōtara anchoring the building to the site.

Timber was important for a client with its association with the New Zealand forestry industry and their “Building-in-Wood” initiative where the main structural materials are wood or wood-based materials.


The structure on the main block is stout pine glulam frame, visibly strong to match the surrounding tōtara. Rising up to the east, the form aids ventilation with its high windows which provide low-glare natural light to the meeting rooms. For economy pre-nailed trusses were used in the other block. A plywood rigid air barrier provides bracing and weathertightness over which stained pine bandsawn reverse board and batten or painted bandsawn plywood are clad.

Internally clear finished pine strandboard is used on the floor to line all the external walls and window reveals, with a contrast on internal walls of painted MDF linings, solid core timber doors and frames. Recycled Matai floorboards with coloured MDF were used on the reception with melamine, laminate and coloured used for the remainder of the joinery.

The darkness of the exterior relating to its surrounding trees contrasts strongly with the lighter colours in the interior that emphasis the sense of space and light.


This building has been awarded a five-star Green Star environment rating for office design, for its simple but environmentally sound design and construction, a first for a government-developed building in New Zealand. The computer simulation of energy use for the Green Star application showed the building consumed just 39 kilowatt hours per square metre per year (a third of the Green Star benchmark).

The use of timber helped the building respond to its site, represent the client while being economical and sustainable.

Timber used

  • Pine Glulam Portal Frame – Main structure. Cost effective and sustainable structure that related well to a site surrounded by trees.
  • Roughsawn Pine Reverse Board & Batten Cladding – Main cladding. Cost effective cladding that provides a wonderful texture.
  • Roughsawn Pine Plywood Exterior Cladding. Excellent contrast to the board and batten cladding.
  • Pine Strandboard – Internal panel wall linings, floors and some ceilings. Extremely cost effective and durable. It has a wonderful colour and warmth
  • Pine EO MDF – Fast and cost effective internal panel lining used for contrasting painted surfaces, it almost eliminated with the strandboard the need for wet trades.
  • Recycled Matai Floorboard – Reception Counter. Beautiful feature timber that would have grown locally. Enhanced colouration of timber due to age. Sustainable use of native timber.
  • Prenailed Radiata Pine Framing – Used in walls roof structure of admin block. Cost and thermally effective. A better choice when using timber linings.
  • Pine Plywood Bracing/Rigid Air Barrier. Provides both barrier and bracing in the one element. Helps ensure that the building is very air tight.


NZ Wood Timber Design Awards 2010
Highly Commended – Commercial Architectural Excellence
Winner – Sustainability Award

5 Star Green Star Rating 
Office Design

Resene Total Colour Award 2010

NZ Lighting Design Award 2010

New Zealand Institute of Architects
Winner – Sustainabilty Award (Local)

DINZ Best Design Awards
Silver Design Award – Built Environment