Making Wood Skyscrapers a Reality

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Making Wood Skyscrapers a Reality

What do T3 in Minneapolis, Atlanta and Toronto, as well as Trafalgar Place in London, 25 King in Brisbane, and Brock Commons in Vancouver have in common? They are all tall structures, constructed in the last five years, and made from wood hybrid (mass timber) materials instead of traditional concrete and steel. According to ThinkWood.com, they reflect a trend where, over the past few years, a number of tall wood projects have been completed around the world, demonstrating successful applications of new wood and mass timber technologies. With rising demand for new urban buildings, and increased interest in sustainable and efficient construction, the potential for tall wood buildings is expected to grow.

So, what is Mass Timber? Mass Timber is a category of framing styles typically characterized by the use of large solid wood panels for wall, floor, and roof construction. It also includes innovative forms of sculptural buildings, and non-building structures formed from solid wood panel or framing systems of six feet or more in width or depth. Products in the mass timber family include, Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), Nail-Laminated Timber (NLT or Nail-Lam), Glue-Laminated Timber (glulam), Dowel-Laminated Timber (DLT), Structural Composite Lumber (SCL) and Wood-Concrete Composites.

One of the benefits of Mass Timber include a lighter carbon footprint, as it allows the use of a renewable and sustainable resource as an alternative to more fossil fuel-intensive materials. It also helps with construction efficiency. Mass Timber construction is fast, and speed correlates to revenue. Mass Timber also weighs less than other materials, which brings smaller foundation requirements and lower forces for seismic resistance. Although made from wood, structurally mass timber offers proven fire protection and seismic resistance, which allows its use in larger buildings.

Building codes across the world, including Canada’s, have progressed to include taller Mass Timber structures. The new 2020 National Building Code of Canada will permit 12 stories of mass timber construction, which should see more new and exciting tall structures built from wood, like “Origine”, a Quebec-based multifamily housing project, which received seven additional stories (for a total of thirteen) courtesy of the Mass Timber’s weight benefits. Although it will take time for the construction industry at large to warm up to the benefits of tall buildings constructed from wood hybrid materials, in the future we might not raise an eyebrow at the thought of wood skyscrapers anymore.

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