Skip to content

You are using an outdated browser

Internet Explorer is not supported by this site and Microsfot has stopped releasing updates, therefore you may encounter issues whilst visiting this site and we strongly recommend that you upgrade your browser for modern web functionality, a better user experience and improved security.

Upgrade my browser

It’s ludicrious we don’t build more with wood. Here’s why we should.

Source: NAARO/Architect.com

BrightVibes takes a look at some of the many sound reasons to turn to wood as the preferred building material of the 21st Century.

Wood works: How trees could be some of our best allies in solving the climate crisis

Around half the world’s seven billion people are in urban areas today, and some futurists predict that by 2050, 75% of the people on earth will live and work in cities. The challenge is to find quality, affordable, and environmentally friendly housing for these billions of city dwellers. The answer may well be found in new architectural and engineering technologies that favour wood as the primary building material.

The King Street tower in Brisbane Australia, has been billed as world's tallest engineered timber building. Tall timber buildings have been going up across Europe and North America for more than a decade, and there are currently around 50 commercial or residential towers either completed or under construction in Australia, including International House in Sydney and Library at the Dock in Melbourne.
From skyscraper to ‘plyscraper’: The towering potential of timber The King Street tower in Brisbane Australia, has been billed as world’s tallest engineered timber building. Tall timber buildings have been going up across Europe and North America for more than a decade, and there are currently around 50 commercial or residential towers either completed or under construction in Australia, including International House in Sydney and Library at the Dock in Melbourne. Source: ABC.net.au

Why build with wood? How towers of timber could help tackle the climate crisis

Did you know, the US transportation industry is responsible for 28% of the country’s energy consumption, but the nation’s construction and building industry accounts for 48% of all the energy produced, as well as 45% of the greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere?

Much of this results from the fossil fuel energy required to forge steel and produce concrete, the primary building materials of the last 125 years. Manufacturing a ton of concrete releases a ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Wood building materials on the other hand, are relatively inexpensive to grow, manufacture and replenish because wood is natural, renewable and sustainably harvested from the nation’s working forests. Moreover, contrary to most manufacturing processes, forests produce oxygen, trees sequester carbon dioxide from the environment and store carbon in harvested wood products.

Pound-for-pound, wood is as strong as steel and extremely durable. Exciting new technologies are enabling the construction of tall, modern wood buildings that are safer and cheaper to build.

Grown by the sun and nature, wood has a lower carbon footprint than other building materials such as concrete and steel.

The emergence of technologically advanced, engineered wood provides a strong, safe, affordable building product that is more sustainable, less energy intensive, and friendlier to the environment than those currently used in most buildings.

Source: TheMostNaturalResource.com

At 18 storeys and 53 metres in height, Brock Commons Tallwood House is a 404-bed student residence building located on The University of British Columbia Point Grey campus in Vancouver,  that officially opened for students in July of 2017. The project is the first to be completed in Canada under the 2013 Tall Wood Building Demonstration Project Initiative sponsored by Natural Resources Canada.
Brock Commons Tallwood House, Vancouver At 18 storeys and 53 metres in height, Brock Commons Tallwood House is a 404-bed student residence building located on The University of British Columbia Point Grey campus in Vancouver, that officially opened for students in July of 2017. The project is the first to be completed in Canada under the 2013 Tall Wood Building Demonstration Project Initiative sponsored by Natural Resources Canada. Source: Sabmagazine.com

ADVANCES IN WOOD TECHNOLOGY–HEAVY TIMBER OR MASS TIMBER CONSTRUCTION

Timber is an attractive material for green building construction as it has a lower carbon footprint, uses less energy and water and is 100% renewable from sustainably managed forests.  This sets timber apart from other building materials, such as concrete and steel.  While all materials are important to the construction of buildings, innovation and advances in wood technology are making it possible to build tall wood buildings using solid Mass Timber Construction.

Engineered wood products, such as Cross Laminated Timber (CLT)Glued Laminated Timber (Glulam)Structural Composite Lumber (SCL) such as Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL) and Parallel Strand Lumber (PSL) provides consistent quality and strength, changing the way buildings perform structurally, in earthquakes, and providing a predictable level of fire resistance. 

Because the size of CLT panels  can be up to 19½ inches thick, 18 feet wide, and 98 feet long in North America, they are used for structural systems such as walls, floors and roofs.  CLT is lightweight yet very strong, and because it is prefabricated, makes it fast and easy to install, generating almost no waste.  It also provides good thermal insulation, good sound insulation and good performance under fire.  Wood products tend to have lower environmental impacts than concrete or steel when considering the full life cycle impacts of these building products.

Source: TheMostNaturalResource

The FSC and PEFC-certified wood selected for the beams, the columns, the ceilings and the frames was left in an unfinished state, leaving the majority of its walls and ceilings raw and unadorned – this in turn revealing the complex structure of the building. The architecture team from the SeARCH firm also barred any material with a short life cycle, or those that couldn’t be recycled or dismantled and reused at some point.
Hotel Jakarta, Amsterdam The FSC and PEFC-certified wood selected for the beams, the columns, the ceilings and the frames was left in an unfinished state, leaving the majority of its walls and ceilings raw and unadorned – this in turn revealing the complex structure of the building. The architecture team from the SeARCH firm also barred any material with a short life cycle, or those that couldn’t be recycled or dismantled and reused at some point. Source: SeARCH.nl

Architect puts forward ‘The Case for Tall Wood Buildings’

Motivated by the desire to find safe, carbon-neutral and sustainable alternatives to the existing structural materials of the urban world, Michael Green, Principal at Michael Green Architecture, published a feasibility study, The Case for Tall Wood Buildings, in which he explains how mass timber offers a safe, economical, and environmentally friendly alternative for tall building structures.

The 200-page document encourages architects, engineers and designers to push the envelope of conventional thinking by demonstrating that wood is a viable material for tall and large buildings and exposing its environmental and economic benefits.

The study introduces a new construction model for tall buildings known as ‘Finding the Forest Through the Trees’ (FFTT). This structural solution utilises mass timber panels – solid panels of wood engineered for strength through laminations of different layers – to achieve a much lighter carbon footprint than the functionally equivalent concrete and steel systems. 

Preconceptions of mass timber construction are acknowledged throughout the study, showing that this mass timber structures are capable of meeting fire and life safety needs while staying within cost competitive marketplace conditions.

Source: ArchDaily.com

Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) has been described as ‘plywood on steroids’ because it is made by gluing alternating layers of lumber together to make a thick panel, much like the layers of veneer in plywood. CLT is part of a bigger initiative known as Mass Timber Construction (MTC), which is exactly what it sounds like – really big chunks of wood-based products.  What makes MTC interesting is that these massive wood sections are suitable for competing with concrete, masonry, and steel construction in midrise (7-15 story) and taller (up to 40 story) buildings where wood typically is not considered feasible.
Plywood on steroids: Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) has been described as ‘plywood on steroids’ because it is made by gluing alternating layers of lumber together to make a thick panel, much like the layers of veneer in plywood. CLT is part of a bigger initiative known as Mass Timber Construction (MTC), which is exactly what it sounds like – really big chunks of wood-based products.  What makes MTC interesting is that these massive wood sections are suitable for competing with concrete, masonry, and steel construction in midrise (7-15 story) and taller (up to 40 story) buildings where wood typically is not considered feasible. Source: Weyerhaeuser.com

WOOD: THE NATURAL, HUMAN WAY TO BUILD

And finally…

‘There’s one more important aspect to wood construction. Along with all the environmental and economic benefits of wood, there is a very human advantage. Unlike concrete and steel, wood is a natural, living material. It springs from the earth and it is eternally replenishable. It was mankind’s first building material and we feel an emotional and physical connection to its aesthetics and strength. From its beautiful grain and texture, to its non-polluting, carbon-storing benefits, something in our soul tells us that wood is good.’  — WHY BUILD WITH WOOD? — MostNaturalResource.com

Make an Impact

The Ultimate 20 Step Guide to Eco-friendly Living

Regardless of whether you’ve decided to go green to help the environment, to save money, or just see how easy it is, every step you take towards eco-friendly living is one that helps the world. If you’re just starting out and want some sustainable living ideas then here are 20 to get you started.