Ancient multi-level timber church
Ancient multi-storey wooden church in Poland. Photo ©Shutterstock

Eco-friendly timber buildings are headed for the stars

This post is in keeping with our mantra of thinking about sustainability and takes a look at the incredible rise of tall timber buildings.

Everywhere you look these days there seems to be another developer announcing the latest ‘world’s tallest timber tower’.

From an environmental perspective, more structural timber elements (over energy-intensive steel and concrete) in multi-storey buildings is good news.

The only question now is, how high is the timber ceiling?

High-rise timber office, Brisbane
5 King Street, Brisbane will be the world’s tallest timber office building. Photo Aurecon

Progress was slow

For many years, I published a magazine that tracked the use of timber in architecture and interior design. And while there was much talk about the potential for re-engineered structural wood products to go high-rise, progress was, understandably, slow.

The boldest initial moves skyward came from Europe, where light and incredibly strong engineered wood products such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) were invented and proven.

Gradually, southern hemisphere developers looking for ‘greener’ buildings took up the challenge. And when the 10-storey, 32.3 m Forté apartments in Melbourne were opened in 2012, they were the world’s tallest using CLT.

Closer to the stars

Numerous other so-called ‘plyscrapers’ have moved closer to the stars, including: The Tree, in Bergen, Norway – a 14-storey (52.8 m) glulam and CLT structure, and the newly opened The Tall Wood at the University of British Columbia in Canada, which tops 53 m (18 storeys).

By the end of 2018, the world’s tallest timber office tower will be at 5 King Street in Brisbane – 52 m high and covering 10 storeys.

They will all be surpassed by the HAUT, a 21-storey timber tower in Amsterdam and a 40-storey wooden giant in Sweden – among others.

Inside a timber skyscraper
Glulam and CLT hold up the giant Mjøstårnet ‘plyscraper’ in Norway. Photo: Øystein Krogsrud

But the tallest of the cellulose (and steel) towers closest to completion is named after Norway’s largest lake, Mjøsa – located in the small town of Brumunddal, north of Oslo.

Arthur Buchardt, investor and contracting client, has dubbed the 80-plus metre construction, “The closest we [have] come to a skyscraper in timber.”

More than 30 m higher than the current plyscraper leader, Mjøstårnet will span 18 floors and be completed in December 2018.

Daddy of them all

For the daddy of them all, however, it seems only fitting that the client should be a forestry company!

Sumitomo Forestry of Japan is planning to have a 350 m timber/steel tower open in central Tokyo by 2041 – to mark its parent company’s 350th anniversary.

To be known as ‘W350’, it will be part of an eco-friendly ‘city’ of high-rise buildings made of wood. Unless something comes along in the meantime, W350 will be the tallest wooden structure in the world.

Footnote: Engineers say it is mainly the base width that determines how high a timber building can go, and that 150 m could be possible.

©Natural Images 2018


©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.


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