Soon Our Cities Will Be Full of Plyscrapers

©. MGA

The Guardian has a new feature on Resilient Cities and looks at a subject dear to this TreeHugger's heart, wooden buildings. They make so much sense right now, with square miles of pine-beetle infested wood that will rot where it stands if not turned into something. Now it can be turned into Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) sort of plywood on steroids and used to build mid-rise to high-rise towers, nicknamed "plyscrapers."

FFTT tower exterior



Athlyn Cathcart-Keays covers much of the same turf trod on TreeHugger, starting with Vancouver architect Michael Green, who tells the Guardian why wood construction is so important, asking architects...

to branch out beyond their concrete and steel confinements, and embrace a material that sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, holding it captive during its growth and lifetime in a structure – one tonne of CO2 per cubic metre of wood. To put that in context, while a 20-storey wooden building sequesters about 3,100 tonnes of carbon, the equivalent-sized concrete building pumps out 1,200 tonnes. That net difference of 4,300 tonnes is the equivalent of removing 900 cars from the city for a year.

michael green from Lloyd Alter on Vimeo.

Forte CLT tower

Forte/Screen capture


She also mentions the Forte Building in Australia, covered here.

The Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology

© The Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology

New Zealand

In New Zealand, architects are hugging wood as "a desirable and safe alternative" to concrete and masonry in an earthquake zone. It's lighter, more flexible and yes, it's fireproof; heavy timber develops a protective char when exposed to fire, and is engineered to be larger than needed to allow for this. So don't read the comments. They are using some interesting new technology:

The structure uses a “post-tension” technology – the brainchild of Buchanan and his colleagues – where timber is lashed together with steel tendons that act like rubber bands, allowing the building to snap back into place following any seismic movement.
wood construction

© Barry Lyons NBLC


Back in Canada, the big news is that wood construction is now approved for up to six storeys high in Ontario, just like it is in British Columbia. This is really important, as it makes the redevelopment of Main Streets throughout the city economically viable; they have been stuck for years in the face of high parking requirements and the cost of concrete construction; six storey wood could create a huge new supply of affordable housing.