Sustainable Skylines: The Rise of Timber Skyscrapers
If the idea of being fifty metres high in a building made of timber doesn't sit too well with you, it may be time to consider a home office. Timber skyscrapers are growing in popularity for a number of reasons including sustainability, cost, earthquake protection and speed of build.
The Brisbane development landscape will soon be home to the world’s tallest timber office building paving the path on the world stage for the newest method of sustainable construction.
Why make a timber skyscraper?
As the industry looks for new ways to be sustainable, timber buildings not only offer an environmental benefit but safety and cost-efficiency as well. Timber skyscrapers are more resilient than you may think and the materials are sourced from sustainable forests. Engineered wood has the opposite of greenhouse gas emissions and acts as a carbon sink.
The minimised waste of sustainable materials and sources is the main driving factor behind this new process, with building quality and performance also benefiting. Timber is an excellent insulator, easy to construct with and much safer to have on worksites than heavier materials like steel and concrete.
Speed of construction
Timber skyscrapers are much quicker to build than say, concrete, which requires drying time. The wood can be pre-cut to the necessary sizes and constructed in a matter of hours.
Another element that speeds up construction while lowering cost is the weight of the materials. The transportation of wood is far easier and cheaper than heavier materials. We are also left with a lighter structure upon completion.
Plyscrapers across the world
Some of the first skyscrapers to ever be built were constructed of iron or steel which along with concrete are big contributors to global emissions. In response to this, other areas are coming on board with Australia including Norway, New Zealand, and the US. There is an 18-storey pine building in Minneapolis, the HoHo tower in Vienna, and a large tower on the cards for Stockholm as well.
The durability and flexibility of timber construction have already been proven by the Sakyamuni Pagoda in China, the tallest timber building in the world (for now). As one of the oldest timber structures (900 years to be exact), there are no screws or nails, just quality craftsmanship and design holding it together.
China is an area that is no strangers to earthquakes, and the Sakyamuni Pagoda has survived seven significant quakes in its time.
The fear of fire
No doubt the elephant in this topic is fire, right? Surely a building made of wood is just a giant matchstick that is tricky to get out of? While a fire is always a risk, and slightly more so in the case of a plyscraper, the materials used are not completely timber. Most of the buildings mentioned above use an engineered wood which is glued together with fire-resistant glue which makes it durable, saves it from warping in the wet and is significantly harder to ignite.
The Fire Research Laboratory in Virginia ran a safety test on two one-bedroom apartments made of the engineered wood mentioned above. The fire destroyed the furnishings, then self-extinguished leaving the structure intact.
The future skyline
It is important to note that none of the timber buildings currently in existence or planned are not technically tall enough to be classed as skyscrapers yet, but all signs point to this being a serious possibility in the near future.
The environmental benefits of timber buildings are the number one reason why they should be considered moving forward. One cubic metre of wood draws in a ton of CO2. The cost and time benefits are just a bonus. As the world spins, reducing our carbon footprint and living sustainably is paramount for the safety and survival of future generations. Therefore, it is our responsibility to use the technology and knowledge at our disposal now, to set the framework for a healthy future.
Article credit: Urban.com.au