render of wooden skyscraper

Wooden skyscrapers

Ever thought you would see a skyscraper made of wood? Well, that is now a possibility thanks to the introduction of a new construction system based on the use of wood as a structural material that is formed from several layers of timber panels—between 5 and 7—glued together. It remains to be seen whether this new style of architecture has staying power but, one thing is certain, it is a concept that is gaining advocates and for which projects are gradually been given the green light for construction in cities like London, Paris and Amsterdam.

Michael Green is one of the architects promoting this new way of designing and constructing tall buildings with wood, saying in a recent report on the subject that, ‘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’, going on to stress the properties of wood as a renewable, natural and sustainable material.

The same report describes the details of this new structural system, which functions through the construction of a solid wood core holding the main circulatory points and floor slabs. Steel beams are still used to provide ductility against the forces of wind and earthquakes, with concrete used in foundations and at the base level.
Vancouver has already begun the construction of its own Great Wood Tower, a 53 metre-high student residence (17 floors) to house 404 people. Construction is expected to be completed in summer 2017.

The Canadian prototype has its European competitors, however, with a number of other projects gunning to secure the record. Amsterdam has already given the go-ahead for the construction of what will be the world’s tallest wooden building—a 21-storey skyscraper that will stand almost 75 metres high—which will begin at the end of 2017. And that is not all. If a University of Cambridge-led project is approved, it could soon be the London skyline that boasts the world’s tallest wooden skyscraper, with a 300 metre-high, 80-storey structure. Other cities, such as Paris and Stockholm are also developing wooden construction projects for the not too distant future.

The use of wood for the construction of skyscrapers comes from the need to find a safe, sustainable and carbon neutral alternative. According to architects like Green, the potential market for these new ideas is enormous and the proposed solutions have the potential to revolutionise the construction industry, addressing the challenges posed by climate change, urbanisation and sustainable development, in addition to contributing to the global housing needs of the 21st century.

Photo: HAUT, the wooden building to be built in Amsterdam in 2017. (Source: Team V Architecture).

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