Felling Opposition to Wooden Skyscrapers

For a number of reasons, the use of wood for the construction of large buildings fell out of favor more than a century ago. So why is one Vancouver-based architect arguing for constructing high-rises using one of nature's oldest building materials?

Anthony Flint looks at the reasons why Vancouver-based architect Michael Green proposes "using wood to erect urban skyscrapers and multifamily structures of up to 30 stories," which was the subject of a recent TED Talk.

"For one thing, Green argues, using wood in a more systematic way would be good for sustainability," notes Flint. "Buildings account for nearly 50 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. In the construction process, 3 percent of the world’s energy is used for making steel, and 5 percent for concrete."

"Wood grows by the power of the sun, and harvesting wood through sustainable forestry practices – enough wood for a 20-story building is grown every 13 minutes, he says – would also be a form of sequestration of carbon, which is otherwise released when a tree falls and decomposes."

So why hasn't high-rise wood construction taken off? "The vast majority of city building codes, largely based on the tragedies of a century ago, limit the height of wood buildings, often to a mere four stories," explains Flint. However, the type of wood that would be used in high-rise construction - super-compressed mass timber panels - is "actually difficult to burn."

"Sweden has already approved a 30-story wood tower, and Vancouver is reviewing Green’s proposal for a structure nearly as high," adds Flint. "His white paper, 'The Case for Tall Wood Buildings,' is available at the Wood Coalition website."

Full Story: Why We Just Might Want to Build Skyscrapers Out of Wood


Brand new! Urban Grid City Collection

Each city has its own unique story. Commemorate where you came from or where you want to go.
Grids and Guide Red book cover

Grids & Guides

A notebook for visual thinkers. Available in red and black.
Book cover of Where Things Are from Near to Far

Where Things Are From Near to Far

This engaging children's book about planning illustrates that "every building has its place."
Book cover of Unsprawl

Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as Places

Explore visionary, controversial and ultimately successful strategies for building people-centered places.
Starting at $12.95