Driven by the desire to find safe, carbon-neutral and sustainable alternatives to the incumbent structural materials of the urban world, Michael Green, Principal at Michael Green Architecture, has shared with us this highly-anticipated feasibility study, The Case for Tall Wood Buildings. 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.
Co-author Michael Green explains, “To slow and contain greenhouse gas emissions and find truly sustainable solutions to building, we must look at the fundamentals of the way we build – from the bones of large urban building structures to the details of energy performance. We need to search for the big picture solutions of today’s vast climate, environmental, economic and world housing needs.”
Mid-rise and tall buildings around the globe have been predominately constructed in concrete and steel, two materials that have served their purpose well. However, in the challenging age of Climate Change, it is imperative that we revolutionize our building industry, as the report reveals that “concrete production represents roughly 5% of world carbon dioxide emissions, the dominant green house gas. In essence the production and transportation of concrete represents more than five times the carbon footprint of the airline industry as a whole.”
The Case for Tall Wood Buildings introduces a new way of constructing tall buildings with a renewable, durable and strong building material that is manufactured by nature. When harvested responsibly, wood may be the best option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and storing carbon in our buildings.
The study introduces a new construction model for tall buildings known as ‘Finding the Forest Through the Trees’ (FFTT). This structural solution utilizes 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.
The FFTT system is a predominantly wood system with a solid wood central elevator (and stair) core and wood floor slabs. Steel beams are used to provide ductility in the system to address wind and earthquake forces. Concrete has been used for the below grade areas of the structure. Architecturally, this system would allow for more flexible, open floor plans and thinner walls.
Ultimately, Michael Green plans to develop a 30-storey wooden tower in Vancouver as an attempt to demonstrate the possibilities and advantages of mass timber construction for mid-rise (6-12 storeys) and tall buildings (+/- 3- storeys). He also believes that the continuation of this research will one day result in the possibly of using mass timber construction for even taller high rises.
Green has generously published the results of his research in an open source paper than can be reviewed in its entirety here. Check it out and let us know your thoughts!
The Case for Tall Wood Buildings was commissioned by CWC on behalf of the Wood Enterprise Coalition (a partnership of Wood WORKS! BC, FPInnovations, and BC Wood Specialties), with support from Forestry Innovation Investment, and prepared by mgb ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN, Equilibrium Consulting, LMDG Ltd, and BTY Group.
Co-authors: Michael Green MAIBC FRAIC of Michael Green Architecture (Formerly of mgb ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN) and Eric Karsh PEng of Equilibrium Consulting Inc (Structural Engineers)
Project Lead and Architects: Michael Green (mgb ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN)
Structural Engineers: Eric Karsh (Equilibrium Consulting Inc)
Structural Peer Review: Reed Jones Christoffersen Consulting Engineers
Costing: Joe Rykab (BTY Group)
Code Consultants: Geoff Triggs (LMDG Ltd)
Code Peer Review: GHL Consulting Ltd
Renderings: Seng Tsoi of Michael Green Architecture