October 14, 2013
Interest in tall wood buildings intensifies
Industry Voices | Werner Hofstatter
A few weeks ago, we asked who was interested in the potential for wood skyscrapers in B.C.
We were expecting to ferret out a few design mavericks, but we could not have been more wrong.
Since announcing the Tall Wood Building Renaissance Seminar in mid-July, more than 80 groups have asked to participate in this 60-minute virtual tour of 17 contemporary tall wood buildings that have emerged over the last five years.
In addition to the usual audiences of architects and engineers, a substantial portion of the 500+ participants are major developers and contractors.
By now we all know about the importance of re-aligning the proportions of structural materials that come from sustainable sources.
Even Coca Cola takes great pride in telling us that 30 per cent of the material for their Dasani water bottles comes from plant-based materials.
With modern, wood-based structural materials, we can achieve the same in our buildings.
Mass timber panel products are making tall wood buildings as constructible as ever.
Traditional materials, like nailed-up or glued-up dimension lumber, have been used to make large floor and wall plates since the early 1900s.
Newer diaphragm materials like cross-laminated timber, adapted from Europe over the last few years and now manufactured in Canada, are also ideal for wall, floor and shaft applications. Other contenders, such as laminated veneer lumber and laminated strand lumber, which are not often used in full sheet form, are also featured.
The highlight of the seminar is the building tour.
It includes multimedia stops at the four, eight-storey Limnologen apartment buildings in Vaxjo, Sweden, the nine, eight and 10-storey (respectively) Murray Grove, Bridport House and Banyan Wharf projects in London, U.K. and the four, eight-storey towers of Via Cenni in Milan, Italy.
Also featured are the eight-storey Life Cycle Tower, which was built in Austria in only 8 days - the 10-storey Forte Building in Melbourne, Australia and, of course, the 29+ metre Wood Innovation and Design Centre, which is currently under construction right here in Prince George.
Some conceptual designs are promising us wood skyscrapers of 30+ storeys in the not too distant future.
These include the 30-storey FFTT design developed by Michael Green Architects/Equilibrium in The Case for Tall Wood Buildings, the 40-storey Office Building of the Future entry by CEI Architectural Planning Interiors/RJC, and the 42-storey Concrete-Jointed Timber Frame concept by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.
The latter presents an engineered wood alternative to an actual 1996 residential building that, according to the designers, “could compete with reinforced concrete and steel while reducing the carbon footprint by 60 to 75 percent.”
However, what is really drawing the interest of the B.C. building community is the looming, Oct. 18, due date for Expressions of Interest for the Canadian Wood Council’s $5 million Tall Wood Demonstration Project.
Targeted at developers, designers and builders with projects at least 10-storeys tall, the program offers up to $5 million in incremental funding to teams that can offer safe and viable approaches to designing and constructing tall buildings using engineered wood materials.
A draft of the Technical Guide for the Design and Construction of Canadian Tall Wood Buildings has recently been released.
It covers all aspects of design and construction including structural, fire, seismic, acoustic, vibration, sustainability, maintenance and cost considerations.
Maybe we will finally see buildings on our skylines as tall as the trees from which they were made.
Werner Hofstätter is the new products and markets advisor for the Canadian Wood Council’s Wood Works! BC Program and the contact person for Expressions of Interest for High Rise Wood Demonstration Project(s) in Canada submissions in B.C. Direct comments or questions to email@example.com.
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