Wood has always held much appeal as a construction material for a combination of reasons; its natural aesthetic, durability, robustness and of course its carbon sequestering credentials and now it looks to be gaining popularity in lieu of concrete and steel in various construction projects.
Across the world, more and more builders are considering woodscraper project proposals, with numerous tall wooden projects in the pipeline and others on the drawing board.
A Canadian architect, Michael Green believes we already have the technology at hand to build wooden skylines up to 30 feet tall. Structural engineer, Nick Hewson from AECOM agrees, but believes there will be limitations and some considerations will need to be taken into account.
“I think timber could definitely have a role to play in 30-storey-plus buildings but they won’t necessarily be entirely timber structures. Certain issues can arise when you start to build over 10 storeys that include the lateral stiffness of the building and the shortening of the building over time. I think there’s probably a timber building sweet spot between four and 15 storeys for a wholly timber building, the range where it will be most effective”, states Mr Hewson.
Benefits of Timber Buildings
1. Wooden buildings weigh 50% less than traditional concrete buildings which means cost is often greatly minimised. Wood is of most benefit to those developers looking to build on a site which needs a lot of outlay on foundations, or a site which has poor ground conditions.
2. In densely populated areas with limited space, wood is easier to handle as it is lightweight, often making it more attractive to builders working in such tight sites.
“Timber can help manage a site better. Sites are quieter, less dirty, less dusty and significantly safer”, says Mr Hewson.
3. Timber also has other subtle benefits. “Massive wood constructions provide a good quality of indoor air and, as a building material, are an ecologically sustainable and energy-efficient choice”, notes CEO & Acting President of Honka, Mikko Jaskari.
Where is the Timber Take-Up, Taking Place?
In Sydney, Urban Growth NSW has announced an urban renewal project intended to open-up over 1 million square metres of floor-space along the railway, 3km Central to Eveleigh Corridor, providing numerous opportunities for timber construction.
Mr Hewson believes Melbourne would also be an ideal city to begin fitting timber decking over railway lines as it has a plethora of double crossings and development sites offering great potential near the city’s train stations.
“There are such high costs in deck structure so if you can double the yield by placing a building on top, the economics start to make more sense”, points out Mr Hewson.
The Federation Square East project spearheaded by Brookfield Multiplex also provides wooden construction opportunities.
How real is the prospect of wooden skylines popping up across the globe in the future?
According to Mr Hewson it may not be as fanciful a pipe-dream as it sounds.
“I certainly think in our lifetime there will be timber buildings over 30 storeys. The engineered timber industry is still in its infancy. There are products and ideas we haven’t even thought of yet. As for buildings ten to fifteen stories, this can happen now. But let’s not overlook other opportunities including lower multi-residential, rail decking, schools and topping off of towers”, he says.
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