Wooden Skyscrapers: The Next Big Wave in Urban Sustainability

Forward-thinking city planners are moving toward natural materials as a means of reducing carbon footprints.

Forward-thinking architects from around the world are making significant strides in the advocation of timber as a fundamental resource for future city-building. In the interest of promoting smaller carbon footprints and greater overall responsibility in construction, leading researchers say concrete and steel should be comparative to oil-based resources: to be used sparingly and, eventually, not at all.

The initial public concern over the strength of timber as compared to steel, as well as flammability issues, are quelled in the introduction of Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT).

Engineers have perfected a means of gluing layers of wood at 90-degree angles to one another in order to forge what is essentially a new kind of building material out of one that has been used for millennia. CLT is comparable to steel in strength, but much lighter.

The wood's natural charring process during fire provides a kind of organic insulation from the interior structure of the wood becoming damaged and, unlike steel, does not have the tendency to collapse when the high source of heat is removed.

London architects have found great success in implementing a kind of "honeycombing" build that allows for nearly every aspect of construction to be done in natural materials, and Great Britain is now home to "The Cube" as well as a series of residences on Dalston Lane, two of the world's largest timber-based structures.

Though many other nations around the world have joined in the CLT revolution, no one has successfully utilized this promising new material to build anything taller than 55 meters.

A large-scale effort by two London architectural firms is underway to engineer a 300-meter tower made entirely of wood. While costs associated with a fully CLT-based business continue to be developed and refined incrementally, the benefits are far from embryonic.

Statistical reports of large jumps forward in the improvement of human productivity at work and other areas of life, overall relaxation and general sociability in largely naturalistic urban landscapes are rampant and ubiquitous. 

Watch the video for full details. 

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