Architect Alex De Rijk has said 'If the nineteenth century was the century of steel, and the twentieth the century of concrete, then the twenty-first century is about engineered timber.' In Europe, they are squeezing out Cross-Laminated Timber like toothpaste; there are five plants in northern Italy alone, building thousands of earthquake-resistant houses.
Now Henry Fountain writes about it in the New York Times, noting both the virtues and the problems:
The buildings have a low carbon footprint: Because trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, the carbon stored in all those panels helps offset the greenhouse gases released in making and hauling the other building materials and in the actual construction.
And by using so much wood, cross-laminated timber buildings might also help solve a vexing problem in North America: what to do with millions of pine trees that have been killed by a widespread beetle infestation but are still standing in Western forests, posing a great fire risk.
The article then describes Waugh Thistleton's tower in London, covered in TreeHugger here. Anthony Thistleton notes that it is very different from conventional wood construction or even heavy timber frame;
“That’s one of the things we found difficult to get across, that timber panel construction is completely different from timber frame,” Mr. Thistleton said. “It’s got more in common with precast concrete construction.”
Indeed, it is more like building with Charles Eames House of Cards, with panels slotted and bolted together. As builder Pete McCrone concludes:
Architects and engineers can start out as skeptics. In a very short space of time they get it, because it’s simple — it’s large panels held together with large screws.
More in the New York Times