“Wood is the new concrete. Concrete is a 20th-century material. Steel is a 19th-century material. Wood is a 21st-century material.”
There is a 9-floor building in the heart of London, called as the Stadthaus, designed in 2009 by a local architecture firm, Waugh Thistleton. There is something about this building that is remarkable.
It is an imposing structure, built solidly, and quite attractive to look at. But there are many buildings in London that fit that description. What makes Stadthaus so unique?
Okay, here’s what you should know. It is a modern building and yet, is made entirely of wood. The floors, ceilings, shafts, and even the elevators – they are all made from wood.
This is remarkable. But it shouldn’t surprise you. Wood architecture is today commonly used in cities such as London and New York. It relies on wood, but not on any wood.
The modern buildings of today are made from a special type of wood called CLT or cross-laminated timber. This is a material that lends the buildings their strength and mass; and is comprised of large panels that are up to half a foot in thickness.
These materials are made by placing several layers of parallel beams perpendicularly on top of each other and then binding them together so that they are just as strong as steel can be.
While Stadthaus was the first modern building made entirely with wood architecture, there have been many others that have followed the same path. Waugh Thistleton, the architects behind Stadthaus, built another wooden wonder, a 7-floor building in London.
Similar buildings are coming up, such as a 10-floor building in Melbourne called Forte, which is as of now the tallest wood building in the world. There another that has come up in Prince George, British Columbia.
This is just the start. Soon, a 34-floor building made entirely of wood will come in Stockholm, Sweden; followed by a 30-floor wood building in Vancouver. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, one of the biggest architecture firms in the world, is planning to build a gigantic wood building in Chicago which is expected to rise up to 42 floors!
Why wood architecture? Well, for one, it is environmentally friendly, renewable and does not leave any carbon footprint. CLT or mass timber is much cheaper than steel or concrete. It is much easier to assemble and is fire resistant. It is tough, durable, sustainable, and can last for over a hundred years quite easily.
Steel and concrete are unsustainable. They generate tons of carbon footprint. Wood is environmentally sustainable. Wood absorbs carbon while a typical building made from steel and concrete generates 137 tons of carbon dioxide.
So, you can save 137 tons of carbon by using wood architecture. That’s why there is a real demand from the environmentally conscious public for more wood buildings to be constructed. This is certainly the need of the hour.