Wood Can Replace Concrete: The Future Of Skyscrapers

The population of the world is increasing like never before and is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. As much as the population is rising, they require more place to live. Raising the number of floors of skyscrapers may seem practical but is it an eco-compatible solution? The concrete buildings leave a high amount of carbon footprint detrimental to the environment.

Fortunately, architects have discovered the most suitable alternative to be buildings made of timber. The use of steel has been widespread since the twentieth century for its malleability and strength. So, why is it better to use wood than using concrete to build structures? We start with the cons of using concrete. It uses a lot of steel which is strong but requires a lot of industrial engagement to be produced. Moreover, they are very costly to produce and bulky to transport.

Using timber from sustainable forests means less harm to the environment since carbon footprint is reduced when industrial activities decrease significantly. Moreover, the timber absorbs a significant amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and is lighter to transport. A study showed that using timber to build a 125 meters skyscraper would reduce its carbon footprint up to 75% as compared to concrete buildings.


What could go wrong with timber? Two of the challenges posed was its strength and fire resistance ability. Well, the solution has been found already. Engineers have made a new material named as cross-laminated timber or CLT where layers of wood are glued to each other in 90 degrees so that the built is strong.  When it comes to fire resistance, the woods have the specific natural protection that makes them charred but keeps the structure impact. And once away from the source of fire, it extinguishes on its own. The steel, however, starts to get soft. There have been cases where steel roofs have collapsed, but wooden ones have stood straight in case of fire.

Waugh Thistleton Architects in London are already designing and constructing buildings made of the new timber. They can make one floor within a week which is as twice as faster in construction time as compared to concrete buildings. This is possible as concrete means making slabs and columns while timber building includes all the internal and external structures created in a honeycomb structure. The world’s largest timber based building is in London designed by Andrew Waugh and his team.


At present, there are no timber structures beyond 55 meters. And it is popular in central Europe, Scandinavian economies and North America. A research led by Michael Ramages in Cambridge are looking forward to completing a 300-meter tall timber building above the Barbacian called as Oakwood tower.

Timber does seem viable option to cater the foreseen need of a place for humans while being eco-friendly. China has been building vertical forests in the city areas with the hope of reducing pollution. The alarming rise of global pollution is the reason such initiatives are being invented with a desire for better future. The challenge of CLT lies in the acceptance of the material by people as being safer than ordinary wood in terms of fire resistance. If planners approve it, then the future of skyscrapers would get a drastic turn.

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  1. Hey! A study showed that using timber to build a 125 meters skyscraper would reduce its carbon footprint up to 75% as compared to concrete buildings.

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