Monday, May 28, 2012


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This is the 30-storey Tall Wood Tower, designed by Canadian architect Michael Green for Vancouver. Green and his colleagues believe passionately that we have to change building practices and make far more use of wood for high-rise buildings in the cities of the world.

Green is the co-author of a report ‘The Case for Tall Wood Buildings’ commissioned by the Canadian Wood Council on behalf of the Wood Enterprise Coalition. It is an important document which has been made freely available as a pdf download: database/rte/files/Tall%20Wood.pdf
Here are some extracts:

‘We are in a unique moment in architectural and building
engineering history when shifting world needs has asked us to question some of the fundamentals of how we have built for the last century and how we will build in the next.

‘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. For the last century there has been no reason to challenge steel and concrete as the essential structural materials of large buildings. Climate change now demands that we do.

… the building industry must seek innovation
in the fundamental materials that we choose to build with.

‘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. ‘

We …hope that the ideas within the study
will gain momentum within the larger building industry and be the precursor to a revolution in the way we build mid-rise and tall buildings around the globe.’

This revolution in building practice is made possible by what is called Mass Timber construction.

‘Mass Timber is defined as solid panels of wood engineered for strength through laminations of different layers. The panels vary in size but can range upwards of 64 by 8 feet (20m x 2.4m) and in the case of CLT can be of any thickness from a few inches to 16 inches or more. Ultimately these are very large, very dense solid panels of wood.

The three primary Mass Timber products are: Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) made from layers of solid wood set at 90 degree orientations; Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL) made from a matrix of thin chips.
Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) made from thin laminations of wood similar to plywood but much larger in scale.

These Mass Timber products offer significant benefits over light wood frame techniques in terms of fire, acoustic performance, and structural performance, scale, material stability and construction efficiency. ‘



AUSTRIA:  The LifeCycle Tower to be built in Dornbirn, Austria uses wood as its primary structural support. When it is completed it will stand 30 stories tall, netting it the title of the tallest wooden building in the world. The building is designed to Passivhaus standards and uses prefabricated building modules that can be erected in half the time of traditional building. An adaptive fa├žade can host solar electric, solar thermal, green panels, or sunscreens, making this a strong candidate for the world's greenest high-rise. Source:

Norwegian Barents Secretariat - World's Tallest Wooden Building

NORWAY: In 2009 the Norwegian Barents Secretariat announced plans for a new cultural center that is being touted as the world’s tallest wooden building. The Secretariat hopes that the new structure will serve as a physical symbol of their important role in the High North – a lighthouse of sorts and a beacon of knowledge and development. As part of that role, the new office and cultural center will also act as a model for sustainable building and carbon neutrality. Source:

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Australia’s first Passive House certified building will also be part of a new breed of zero carbon multi-story buildings that use wood as a central building component. Designed by Melbourne based Studio 505 and built by the progressive developer Grocon, the Delta building is aiming to be the greenest multi-story building in Australia. Source: Inhabitat

Britain: See this BBC News report on Bridport House, a block of council flats in Hackney, London, which is the tallest wooden apartment block in the world at eight stories high. It was built and assembled by Eurban using preformed Mass Timber blocks and panels in 40% less time than a conventional concrete building would have taken to build. More details at: Timberinconstruction


‘Tall Wood buildings are not a new concept. 1400 years ago tall pagodas in Japan were built to 19 storeys in wood and still stand today in high seismic, wet climate environments. Several countries around the world have a history of building Tall Wood buildings. In Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood 7 and 10 storey heavy timber buildings have stood for the last hundred years. ‘

Pagoda of Fogong Temple is the oldest existing fully-wooden pagoda in China. Built in 1056, it has survived several large earthquakes over the centuries.


Wooden Skyscraper Unusual Architectural Design

Archangelsk, Russia: Nikolay Sutyagin started this amazing wooden skyscraper as a simple two-story structure, then just kept building. The building now stands 13 stories (144 feet) tall and is under threat of demolition out of safety concerns by authorities. Source: See also: YouTube video from Russia Today.


wooden skyscrapers

Mini Manhattan project made by renowned model maker Michael Chesko. Photo:

Two highly-detailed, hand-carved miniature wooden models of Downtown and Midtown Manhattan have been donated to The Skyscraper Museum by Arizona resident Mike Chesko, a 49-year-old retiree and devoted amateur model maker. In June, Chesko, his wife, son and niece drove cross-country to transport the precious panoramas to the museum and to see the real city at full scale. It was their first trip to New York.

Chesko's models measure 17-3/4 by 20 inches for the Lilliputian Lower Manhattan and 37 by 31 inches for Midtown. The scale of the model is 3/8 inch for every 100 feet, meaning that the 1,250 foot Empire State Building reaches only 4.7 inches tall. The tallest of the tiny buildings are the Twin Towers (still standing in this model) which soar a full 5.1 inches. These models are so small that ten city blocks can fit in the palm of your hand.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Green building practices have helped CLT’s popularity, with its combination of environmental performance, sustainability, design flexibility, cost-competitiveness and structural integrity. Cross laminated timber is a multiply and completely solid material made from wood, a modern building material, a solid prefabricated element made from wood that insulates heat and can simultaneously carry loads.

Anonymous said...

Indeed. It is a very interesting option. Building with wood is quite simple. Handsaws or electric saws can efficiently cut members to length. Also fastening can be accomplished quickly with nails or screws. This allows the actual construction of lightwood frame houses to be completed without any expensive specialized equipment. This helps keep costs down, and allows the methods to be widely used. But hey, buildings!! Truly amazing!

Anonymous said...

Great pictures. These introduces a new way of constructing tall buildings with a renewable, durable and strong building material that is manufactured by nature. When harvested responsibly, wood may be the best option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and storing carbon in our buildings.