The Compact Wooden City: A Life-Cycle Analysis of How Timber Could Help Combat Climate Change

Nowadays the main building materials used in the construction industry are concrete, steel and timber. From the point of view of ecological sustainability, there are four important differences between these three materials: first, timber is the only material of the three that is renewable; second, timber needs only a small amount of energy to be extracted and recycled compared to steel and concrete (but the implementation of its potential is not as developed yet); third, timber does not produce waste by the end of its life since it can be reused many times in several products before decomposing or being used as fuel and; and fourth, timber traps huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere – a tree can contain a ton of CO2 [1] – and the carbon absorbed remains embedded as long as the wood is in use.

Considering the fact that 36 percent of total carbon emissions in Europe during the last decade came from the building industry,[2] as well as 39 percent of total carbon emissions in the United States,[3] the materiality of construction should be a priority for governments’ regulations in the future as measurements against global warming. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and the level of carbon emissions of the big economies across the globe are big issues that need to be solved with urgency in order to avoid larger, more frequent climate catastrophes in the future. The current regulation in several countries of the EU, which is incentivizing the use of renewable materials in buildings, is showing the direction the building industry in many other parts of the world should follow. And if these measures are adopted across the EU and beyond – if other countries start to follow this tendency as well – there will be significantly more wood in cities.

In order to raise awareness of tall wooden buildings, last year Michael Green Architecture reimagined the Empire State Building as a wooden structure. Image © Metsä Wood Limnologen in Växjö, Sweden. Image © Midroc Property Development Early construction of Acton Ostry Architects' Brock Commons Student Residence at the University of British Columbia. When complete in 2017, the 18-story building will be the world's tallest timber building. Image © Acton Ostry Architects Inc. & University of British Columbia Michael Green Architecture was part of a team that proposed the world's tallest wooden buildings as part of the Réinventer Paris competition. Image © MGA + 7

MGA Proposes World's Tallest Wood Building in Paris

Michael Green Architecture (MGA) and DVVD has teamed up with REI France developments to propose the world's tallest wood building in Paris. The carbon-neutral proposal, developed as part of the city’s innovative Réinventer Paris competition, aims to alleviate the city's urban housing challenges.

“Our goal is that through innovation, youthful social contact and overall community building, we have created a design that becomes uniquely important to Paris,” said Michael Green, Principal of MGA. “Just as Gustave Eiffel shattered our conception of what was possible a century and a half ago, this project can push the envelope of wood innovation with France in the forefront. The Pershing Site is the perfect moment for Paris to embrace the next era of architecture.”