The case for wooden skyscrapers: No they don’t catch fire easily, and yes, they’re eco-friendly
“We have an ethic that the earth grows our food. We should move toward an ethic that the earth should grow our homes,” said Vancouver-based architect Michael Green during his recent TED2013 appearance.
Green, well known for designing buildings made of wood, wants to see skyscrapers – not just low-rise buildings – made from the natural material.
“However, [some municipal] building codes currently limit wood buildings to four storeys high,” notes a TED Talk blog post recapping Green’s presentation.
“For the last century, tall buildings have been crafted of steel and concrete — but the greenhouse gas emissions of these materials are huge. As Green notes, 3 per cent of world’s energy goes into the making of steel and 5 per cent goes into the making of concrete. While most people think of transportation as the main villain when it comes to CO2 emissions, building is actually the true top offender — accounting for 47 per cent of CO2 emissions,” the post continues.
But since carbon dioxide is released when a tree falls and decomposes, Green says by building with wood “we could sequester carbon dioxide,” and that building with one cubic meter of wood stores one ton of CO2.
Green’s been pushing wooden skyscrapers for some time now. The architect made waves a year ago when he proposed the 30-storey “Tall Wood” tower in his home city of Vancouver (pictured above). Green argues that the timber panels used to make such structures would be dense enough to ensure that they wouldn’t catch fire easily. And if a fire did break out, since wood burns slowly and predictably, uniform fire safety measures would be easy to put in place.
As for the question of deforestation, Green says enough wood is grown in North America every 13 minutes for a 20-storey building.
Norway is currently building a 16-storey wooden structure that, when it’s completed next year, will be the world’s tallest (pictured below). That is, until Green’s plan gets the green light.