New Heights with Wood

By Jordan Medeiros — Weekly Post 2

In a modern world of glass and steel, wood, a classic and timeless building material, is making a comeback in large-scale skyscraper architecture. Not only does the material retain its original characteristics in being lightweight and sustainable, but new technologies have allowed for the strengthening and somewhat fireproofing of wood, making it a legitimate choice for builders today.

Sustainability has never been more critical than it has been now. Wood, a sustainable and renewable material, is a great ecofriendly option. According to the Economist, wood buildings have a 60-75% lower carbon footprint than most steel-and-concrete buildings of similar size. Furthermore, the harvesting of wood is far less intensive and harmful than the manufacturing of steel and concrete.

The lightweight nature of wood also affords many benefits to its construction. “A wooden building is about a quarter of the weight of an equivalent reinforced-concrete structure, which means foundations can be smaller” (The Economist). Furthermore, the actual construction process would be lighter in that noise levels on site would decrease and less traffic stemming from construction would occur — “for every lorry delivering timber for a wooden building, five lorries would be needed to deliver concrete and steel” (The Economist).

Some might raise the concerns of wood being weak and a fire hazard. By layering timber pieces, new innovations such as cross laminated timber (CLT) significantly increase the strength of wood while also making it less susceptible to fire due to its greater thickness. Furthermore, the implementation of more sprinkler systems would allow for increased fire prevention.

Le Corbusier might see the renewed use of wood as a regression to our past habits, but rather the use of wood in skyscrapers today is a reimagining and reinvention of the status quo. It is pushing our limits to greater sights and higher highs. With wood, we can only go up.


Sources: “Top of the tree.” The Economist, 10 Sept. 2016, 14 Sept. 2016.


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