Berlin is to be home to one of the tallest wooden buildings in Europe; the WoHo tower’s 29 storeys of offices, flats and cafes will be constructed out of wooden beams and panels with a steel reinforced concrete framework.
Using wood in construction instead of non-renewable materials means that buildings are able to store carbon in a similar way that forests do. An exciting opportunity to reduce a project’s carbon footprint. The rise of the “plyscraper” (as these wooden towers are called) does however raise a few questions:
- Will the government ban timber in structures, as well as in cladding? In January 2020 the UK government threatened to ban the use of timber from exterior walls of new residential buildings over 11m, but RIBA and other leading architects are calling for timber to be excluded from the combustible cladding ban to ensure its place in innovative design combatting climate change. The rules on cladding are evolving but at present timber is categorised as “cladding” in the government’s ESW (external wall system) requirements issued in November 2020.
- What impact can timber construction have on costs and programme, as well as the carbon footprint?
- Will modular construction become even more prevalent? The Tree in Bergen, Norway, which is one of the tallest timber buildings in the world was constructed using a prefabrication process.
- Is it sustainable? Do we have enough forests and stock for use in the construction industry?
So who will be next to adorn their cityscape with a wooden skyscraper? London is considering the Oakwood Tower proposed to be 300m high with mixed use residential and office space and many other timber buildings are planned all over the world from Tokyo to Vancouver. Exciting possibilities and more to come as the construction industry continues to innovate.