On Wooden Skyscrapers

This Economist article talks about the many benefits of modern wooden skyscrapers.

Noise:

…the construction site would be a lot quieter without the heavy plant required to pound deep foundations, pump concrete and install steel supports.

Cost:

…for every lorry delivering timber for a wooden building, five lorries would be needed to deliver concrete and steel. All these things may mean that once the total construction costs are calculated, a wooden building can work out cheaper.

Carbon emissions:

Using wood could reduce their carbon footprint by 60-75%, according to some studies.

The biggest concerns are strength, fire, and rot, but with current technology these are overcome:

Strength:

A wooden building is about a quarter of the weight of an equivalent reinforced-concrete structure, which means foundations can be smaller…In much the same way that aligning carbon-fibre composites creates stronger racing cars, aircraft and golf clubs, CLT [Cross-Laminated Timber] imparts greater rigidity and strength to wooden structures.

Fire resistance:

In general, a large mass of wood, such as a CLT floor, is difficult to burn without a sustained heat source—for the same reason that it is hard to light a camp fire when all you have is logs…with other fire-resistant layers and modern sprinkler systems, tall wooden buildings can exceed existing fire standards.

There is also a method that combines small concrete layers on top of a wooden foundation between floors to help reduce floor-to-floor noise and further improve fire resistance.

Rot:

What about woodworm and rot? “If you don’t look after it, steel and concrete will fail just as quickly as timber,” says Michael Ramage, head of the Centre for Natural Material Innovation at the University of Cambridge in Britain.

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