Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mass Timber Construction

By Drew Baldwin


Wood, known as one of the most used structural elements in architecture, is generally overlooked for the use of steel and concrete. However, with sustainable design becoming such a major factor in the field today, sustainable materials and construction methods are more important than an overall sustainable design. In an article from ArchDaily, Michael Green makes a case as to why wood should be the go-to material for tall buildings in the future.  The article goes on to say that though steel and concrete serve their purpose as structural materials, the fact is that roughly 5% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions come from the production of concrete. In the age of climate change in green design, it is imperative to find more sustainable materials, possibly “carbon-neutral” as well. To put it into perspective, the production and transportation of concrete is more than five times the carbon footprint of the airline industry. Looking at wood as the main structural material in tall and mid-rise buildings could be a way of reducing greenhouse gases as well as storing carbon in the buildings. Wood is a material produced by and if harvested responsibly, as long as there is a desire to construct buildings from it. The article introduces the idea of for a new construction model for tall buildings called ‘Finding the Forest Through the Trees’ which uses mass timber panels (solid panels, laminated to improve strength) to create a much lighter carbon footprint than steel and concrete while still providing the same structural stability. The FFTT is a primarily wood structural system with a central wood elevator shaft and wood floor slabs; steel is used to provide ductility for wind and earthquake forces. Concrete would be used as normal for foundations, but this system would allow for more open and flexible floor plans and thinner walls. Michael Green is planning on developing a 30-story wooden tower in Vancouver to demonstrate the possibilities and advantages of mass timber construction for mid-rise and tall buildings. 

FFTT Systems

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