Yet another vision for the future of architecture sees not concrete and steel but wood as a primary sustainable material for even the tallest of skyscrapers. Architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has embarked on the Timber Tower Research Project, a design for a 42-story tower that would be the tallest structure ever made of wood. It would be constructed using ‘mass timber products’ including cross-laminated timber and mixes of wood species in the mass timbers.
SOM are the builders behind the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) of Chicago, One World Trade Center and other super-tal structures. Their plans would use a small amount of concrete in the form of beams for added support at the most highly stressed locations of the structure: the connecting joints.
According to the architects, “this system plays to the strengths of both materials and allows the engineer to apply sound tall building engineering fundamentals. The result is believed to be an efficient structure that could compete with reinforced concrete and steel while reducing the carbon footprint by 60 to 75%.”
Previously, architect Michael Green produced an instruction manual on wooden skyscrapers to encourage other architects and builders to consider the use of wood more often. A contest called Timber in the City challenges students to use wood as a main material for tall structures, and some multi-story complexes made almost entirely of wood have already started to pop up around the world.