Architect Michael Green has plans for a 30-story wooden skyscraper in Vancouver, while plans are afoot in Norway and Austria for 17- and 20-story buildings that use wood as the main building material, eschewing steel and concrete.
“We think we can go higher than 30 stories,” says Green. “We stopped exploring wood around 100 years ago (with the advent of steel and concrete); now we’re looking at a whole new system using mass timber products.”
Green says that the modern wood materials have been around for around 20 years, but until recently they’ve been quite niche or used only in low-rise buildings. What has changed is the way in which architects and builders are thinking about using wood.
“The real change came when we started thinking about climate change. Steel and concrete are great but not environmentally friendly,” he says.
Cutting down trees to make buildings doesn’t immediately sound eco-friendly either, but if sourced from sustainably managed forests (like those in Europe and North America), it can be more environmentally sensitive.
Wood is the most significant building material we use today that is grown by the sun. When harvested responsibly, wood is arguably one of the best tools architects and engineers have for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and storing carbon in our buildings. The Case for Tall Wood Buildings expands the discussion of where we will see wood and specifically Mass Timber in the future of the world’s skylines.
This report introduces a major opportunity for systemic change in the building industry. The work of thousands of scientists with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has defined one of the most significant challenges of our time. How we address climate change in buildings is a cornerstone in how the world will tackle the need to reduce emissions of green house gases and indeed find ways to store those same gases that are significantly impacting the health of our planet. In a rapidly urbanizing world with an enormous demand to house and shelter billions of people in the upcoming decades we must find solutions for our urban environments that have a lighter climate impact than today’s incumbent major structural materials. This report is a major step in that direction. Indeed it introduces the first significant challenge to steel and concrete in tall buildings since their adoption more than a century ago.
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