Just when you had given up on trees, wooden buildings are back! Skidmore Owings & Merrill, the firm behind the Sears (aka Willis) Tower, One World Trade Center, and many other extremely tall buildings wants to make a 42-story skyscraper out of wood.
This doesn't mean a return to Ye Olde Architect's medieval building techniques, but rather a marriage of new technology and renewable materials that's a gagillion times better for the planet than steel. It could mean a radical overhaul for the architecture industry. "This is the first new way to build in a hundred years," says Michael Green, who gave a TED talk about wooden skyscrapers last year. "It’s going to take a little time to work through the best way of doing it," he tells the New York Times.
The environmental benefits are clear. Manufacturing steel and concrete sucks up a lot of energy and releases a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Wood not only takes less energy to process, it also sequesters carbon. And it saves time: Using wood allows buildings to be built incredibly fast because the sections can be prefabricated in a factory and shipped to the site for quick assembly. Learning how to build stronger wood buildings could also aid construction in developing countries with limited resources. Wood could be a game-changer.
And I know what you're about to say, but don't worry: it's not going to burn down. Engineers claim that these "mass timber" structures can meet the same fire standards as a traditional building.
Architects are already heralding the wooden renaissance. Green is working on a six-story wood tower (above) in British Columbia. Earlier this year, Swedish firm C.F. Møller announced its plans to build a 34-foot residential tower in Stockholm (top image). And the architects behind a concept called Big Wood (so clever, guys!) announced their intentions to bring a wood skyscraper to Chicago.