Timber Takes the Heat: the Trees and the Forest of New Towers

Emily Zhu 7/20/2020


Architects, builders, and sustainability advocates are all abuzz over a new building material they say could substantially reduce green house emission, and create a more physically, psychologically, and aesthetically healthy built environment. The material is known as wood!




Architects, builders, and sustainability advocates are all abuzz over a new building material they say could substantially reduce green house emission, and create a more physically, psychologically, and aesthetically healthy built environment. The material is known as wood! Lots of wood. Why are they so geared up? It is among the most ardent proponents of what is known as mass timber, prefabricated structural wood components that can be used to construct buildings, even large-scale buildings, faster, with less waste and eventually with less money.

It performs well in fire – large, solid, compressed masses of wood are difficult to ignite. In the case of fire, the outer layer of mass timber will tend to char in a predictable way that effectively self-extinguishes and shields the interior, allowing it to retain structural integrity for several hours in intensive fire.


It reduces carbon emissions – Building with mass timber can ameliorate climate change because it produces less in greenhouse gas emissions than construction with concrete and steel. Rand wood has the benefit of storing the carbon dioxide trees absorb during their growth, keeping it out of the atmosphere indefinitely. While cutting down trees to make building may not sound environmentally sensitive, wood could be harvested from sustainably managed forests.


It allows buildings to be constructed faster, with lower labor costs and less waste – Unlike materials being ordered in mass quantities, cut to size on site, and assembled with conventional construction, much of the labor and fabrication for cross-laminated buildings is done at the factory. They can be cut only where it is need based on computer-guided fabrication, thus virtually eliminates material waste.


It is fantastic in earthquakes – While concrete simply cracks in earthquakes, it must be demolished and replaced. Wood buildings, however, can be repaired after earthquakes. Fluid viscus damper frame technology (FVDF) absorbs almost all the earthquake energy, allowing the structure to remain undamaged.


It is aesthetically appealing – Wood is nature fingerprint in buildings and has a deeply soothing effect. People just connect to wood in a way that is visceral.


We, as innovators, are always looking for the next thing, a richer experience for how we live. The benefits are aesthetic, lifesaving, and environmentally responsible.