Could “Tall Wood” Buildings Be the Future of High Rises?

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Robison Wells
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In what may seem counter-intuitive to progress, there is a global resurgence of so-called “tall wood” buildings, which are defined as structures that are made primarily from timber framing and are more than fourteen stories or fifty meters tall.

In the past six years, 44 such buildings have been built or begun construction, around the world. These projects have been fueled in large part by sustainability initiatives, such as Canada’s Green Construction Through Wood (GCWood) Program, which provides funding incentives for wood-construction buildings and those using wood in innovative ways. Internationally, the International Code Council changed the International Building Code to allow for tall wood structures up to 80 meters tall.

What are the benefits to such tall wood structures?

The primary benefit is one of sustainability. According to ArchDaily: “Such claims are founded on research showing that steel’s embodied energy and greenhouse gas emissions rate poorly: only one square meter of floor space supported by a steel beam emits 40 kg of CO2 and requires 516 megajoules of energy. Concrete is not much better, clocking in at 27 kg of CO2 and 290 megajoules of energy. In contrast, a square meter of floor space supported by a wooden beam only emits 4 kg of CO2 and requires only 80 megajoules of energy.”

In other words, constructing a square meter of tall wood would consume and emit one tenth the carbon footprint of a steel structure. Another study showed that the lifecycle emissions of a wood house was 74% lower than that of steel and 69% lower than concrete.

For more information on how tall wood can help the environment, check out ArchDaily:

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