Could Wooden Skyscrapers Be The Next Big Thing?

Living in a world city today generally means that we are surrounded by tall, shiny skyscrapers, generally made of concrete and steel. However, as we are living in an age of Climate Change and Global Warming, it is important that we start looking at more eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives, and Wooden Skyscrapers could be the answer.

Vancouver-based Architect Michael Green believes that wooden skyscrapers are the future for sustainable super-structures around the world. He has already designed a concept for a 30-storey tower in downtown Vancouver and has also produced a 200-page instruction manual, The Case for Tall Wood Buildings for other builders and architects to use – free of charge.

By doing this he hopes to convince other architects, builders and engineers around the world to go from using concrete and steel to using a material that takes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and keeps hold of it within the structure’s lifetime. This can be as much as one tonne of CO2 per cubic metre of wood, so a 20-storey wooden building keeps hold of roughly 3,100 tonnes of carbon. Compare this with the same sized building made of concrete which generates 1,200 tonnes. At a difference of 4,300 tonnes, this equates to removing 900 cars from the city for a year.

If this concept is built, then Green’s building would easily be the tallest wooden building in the world. Other wooden structures include London’s Stadthaus at nine storeys tall as well as Melbourne’s Forte Building at 10-storeys tall. He plans to use this as a prototype to show off the advantages and possibilities for mass timber construction for both tall and mid-rise buildings.

So you may be thinking that wooden buildings are not nearly as strong as steel or concrete and they also have an increased fire risk. Green’s Vancouver wooden building is made from a version of super-plywood that has been developed, where layers of low-grade softwood are glued together in order to produce timber panels which makes them extremely strong as well as beating fires much more efficiently than its steel alternatives. This is because the specially engineered timber creates a protective charring layer that burns predictably whilst keeping the structure intact.

One such city that has recently built a wooden structure is Christchurch, New Zealand with its Merritt building that is a post-earthquake structure after the destruction of the earthquake in 2010 and 2011. Using “post-tension” technology, the timber is held together with steel tendons acting like rubber bands, which allows the building to snap back together after any seismic movement.

Today, 5 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions are created by concrete production, whilst the production and transportation of concrete represents over five times the carbon footprint of the airline industry as a whole. Therefore, it is hugely important that we find an alternative building material that is sustainable to help with climate change and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Published on 13th of November 2014 by Marty Stanowich
Marty Stanowich
Marty Stanowich

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