Continued advances in cross laminated timber (CLT) and wood framing techniques now make wood high-rises practical. A key enabling technology are adhesives.
Architects Skidmore Owings & Merrill provided an update on urban construction trends at last month’s American Assn. for the Advancement of Science in Chicago. Attendees we spoke to were excited to learn of SOM’s re-engineering and re-design of plans for its existing 400-foot tall, 42-story concrete apartment building – built in 1965 – re-imagined using wood as the principle construction material. The verdict: wood high-rises are strong enough to be tall. And surprisingly, wood structures are also fire-resistant enough to be practical.
The business case: wood high rises are economically and environmentally better than steel and glass for housing millions of newly affluent workers in the developing economies, including hundreds of millions of Chinese and Indian urban dwellers. This would create large new markets for North American wood products.
Among organizations advancing the role of wood in high-rise construction are WoodWorks.org and the Softwood Lumber Board, the latter based in Chicago, where it has been funding research into engineering high-rise construction.