Vancouver architect Michael Green wants to build the world’s tallest wooden skyscraper, a 30 storey tower made entirely out of wood. And why not? Wood is ecologically superior to concrete and steel, it’s a better insulator and thanks to recent technology it’s just as strong too. CLT or Cross Laminated Timber products are multiple sheets of pine, poplar or aspen fused together at right angles to each other for maximum strength. CLT panels are also fire resistant, putting to rest fears of a towering inferno.
Green’s wooden skyscraper will be a mix of Glulam columns, another engineered wood product, steel beams and pre-fabricated CLT load-bearing walls hoisted into place by a crane. Since wood is lighter than concrete Green estimates construction time will be cut in half. This recently completed apartment building in Austria, the Lifecycle Tower, shows how it can be done.
Green’s proposal for a mini skyscraper, a 16 storey residential tower, is presently before Vancouver’s Planning Department. If approved, it will show that engineered wood products are a viable alternative to concrete and steel and pave the way for even taller towers including his 30 storey colossus.
In the meantime Green and his partners have made their plans available free of charge to anyone who wants them. “Just as no-one holds the patent on steel design for towers or concrete design, ideas on how tall wood buildings work should be universally shared,” he says. Ever the environmentalist, Green pushes for a re-think. “These ideas impact climate change and energy use as well as housing availability and cost and to have held onto them for only our use would not be the responsible global citizen that I believe we should all try to be whenever we can.” And for Green, being a good global citizen means building with wood.