High rise buildings of wood???

This entry was posted by Monday, 19 May, 2014
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Cartoon about wooden skyscrapers

HIgher and higher with wood


The tallest building in the world is in Dubai. 163 stories plus another 46 in the spire. There’s more underground too. That’s where the parking is.

Was that thing built with two by fours?

What do you think?  Of course not. Nobody builds high rise buildings out of wood. That was concrete and steel. In fact, the engineers had to figure out new ways to get the concrete up that high – special heavy duty concrete pumps, the most powerful ever made.

It’s too bad that tall buldings can’t be made of wood. It’s a renewable resource, right? Wood buildings are cheaper to heat, cheaper to cool, and have a good “carbon footprint”. They also do better in a fire. Heavy wood structural members can burn but they don’t fold up suddenly like steel. They last longer BECAUSE they burn (instead of turning to jelly when heated). Burning – at least for heavy timbers – is slow.  If you’ve got a fireplace, you know what I’m talking about. A great big log can burn all night.You don’t WANT your nice building to catch on fire but – You know what? – If it ever does, you SURE don’t want it to collapse before you make it down the fire stairs. Another advantage of wood: wood buildings go together easier. The beams and columns are easier to lift and easier to fasten. You can even use nails and screws.

Well could that big building in Dubai have been made of wood? Wood has advantages but steel is stronger. Getting WAY up in the sky like that pushes everything to the limit. If you insist on a 200 story vanity tower, wood’s probably not a good choice. But could more modest high rise buildings be built of wood? What are the possibilities?

Tom Vilsak, US Secreatry of Agriculture wants to see more wood construction. His agency has put up a million dollars for the best designs of high rise buildings from wood.

Wood designs that reach for the stars.


Vilsak’s feels that new uses for wood and hybrid structural products of wood and other materials could put the US out front in new industries. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are already employed making wood products. A new market for wood would expand opportunities even more.

A radio tower of wood

387 foot radio tower in Poland

Building high in wood isn’t a new idea. Some very high structures have been around for years.  There’s a 387 foot all wood radio tower in  Gliwice, Poland that was built in 1935. As for new stuff, current plans include a 34 story wooden building for Stockholm, Sweden, and a 30 story tower for Vancouver.

This new USDA initiative should encourage more.

– – – – – –

The cartoon is mine. The photo of the wooden radio tower is courtesy of Wikipedia.

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