The Past is the Future: Why Wooden Skyscrapers are Spreading in Cities Around the World

BY:Akinade Eniolabi
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Having been used in the past in the construction of some of the world's most beautiful, iconic buildings, -- e.g. Tudor timber arches of Westminster Hall in London, wooden rooftops of Forbidden City in Beijing, etc. -- but never thought could replicate what concrete and steel are doing in mega structures, wood is now making its way into the league of high-rises.

Definitely, you have seen many skyscrapers in your city,... but what about woodscraper -- a complete skyline built out of wood. Yes, you heard me! Wood!

Well, don't be too curious as cities around the world are shaping up for the new types of tower blocks that are made of wood, and they may soon extend to your areas.

In the past five years, the momentum is gaining...,

At 104-foot tall, the 10-storey Forte residential block was the world's tallest timber building when erected -- in 2012 -- in Melbourne, Australia, until that title slipped away to The Treet in Central Bergen, Norway, -- in 2014 -- which has an extra four stories.

Presently under construction is the descriptively named Tall Wood Building in Canada, which is billed to rise 174 feet and 18 stories to the sky. A 275-feet-high timber building is also in the pipeline in Vienna, while Stockholm has proposed to build a 34-storey wooden apartment by 2023.

The grandest of the entire timber trend, if given the green light for construction, would be the Oakwood Tower in London. It's a proposed joint project by PLP Architecture and Cambridge University's Department of Architecture, aimed particularly at pushing the frontiers of building with wood, to encourage more people to join the party. At 1000 feet and 80 stories tall, the Oakwood Tower would become the world's tallest timber building.

Timber is getting stronger and larger

The emerging types of super strength products made out of wood are partly driving the trend.

Cross-laminated timber, for instance, sees small wood components placed across one another and laminated with fire-resistant glue to make large panels for a building.

"There's a whole bunch of new materials made out of wood that is structurally able to build big buildings," says Dr. Michael Ramage, Center for Natural Material Innovation, Cambridge University.

While there is a host of advantages of working in wood -- it's flexible, easily worked with, and lightweight compared to concrete and steel -- One great benefit of this material is the speed of construction; panels can be made to measure in the factory complete with major openings, windows, and doors.

Eco-friendliness and people affinity; another argument that's pushing the boundary of wood in high-rise construction

Experts believe that the sheer volume of producing and building with concrete alone accounts for about 6-8% of the global CO2 footprint. Whereas, wood absorbs the CO2 and leaves no carbon footprint in construction.

"A 20-storey plyscraper compared with a concrete and steel building of the same size is the equivalent of taking 900 cars off the road for a year," estimates Michael Green, Vancouver-based Architect, whose company MGA recently completed a 97-feet-tall wooding building, the Wood Innovation and Design Center, in Prince George, Northern British Columbia.

There are several studies that have also shown that wood buildings have a positive psychological effect on people. We associate wood with a green space, and we are more comfortable sitting around it.

So, if the 20th century was a century of skyscrapers, then 21st is shaping up to become the century of "plyscrapers."


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