Designing for Deconstruction: A Way to Make Wood Even More Sustainable

Wood tends to outlast the buildings it’s crafted into, no matter how long they’re in use. Then it’s either tossed into a landfill or rescued for reuse, minus whatever damage occurred during demolition. But what if we designed every single building with the assumption that someday, someone will want to tear it down and build something new? That concept is called Design for Deconstruction (or Design for Disassembly, DfD), and it maximizes the long term usability of building materials while minimizing waste. DfD can be applied to all kinds of materials, but it’s especially useful with wood due to wood’s natural carbon sequestration properties, which help hold onto carbon instead of releasing it into the atmosphere.

“First, wood is a renewable resource and its growth takes place through photosynthesis and not through mining or extraction,” says ArchDaily. “Trees grow in almost all climates, and using local species can greatly reduce the amount of energy expended on transport. When a tree is harvested to make lumber and engineered wood, it stores carbon in the building. When another tree is planted in its place, it will also absorb and store carbon.”

“Because wood is versatile and durable, it can be disassembled and then reassembled into other buildings or other wood fiber products, sequestering the carbon even longer as long as it stays out of landfills. Even if it doesn’t have a construction use, wood can be turned into various valuable bio-based products, such as biochar, which can replace coal and also be used as an agricultural fertilizer.”

Here’s a brilliant example. The Olympic Village Plaza currently in use in Tokyo was built using 40,000 pieces of donated timber from governments across Japan, which is pretty cool in its own right. But all the lengths of  cypress, cedar and larch that make up this 5,300-square-meter temporary village were stacked together in ways that will make it easy to take them apart later, while also drawing on ancient Japanese design aesthetics. When the building is no longer needed, it will be dismantled and the wood will be returned to the municipalities that donated it to be reused in local construction projects.

When you look at the building, you can see how it’s constructed almost like a puzzle. Slotting materials together in ways that meet building codes and could last for many decades but also enable the reuse of almost every component is the future of building, and finding creative new ways to do it could lead to some awesome new designs.

Read all about Design for Deconstruction and why it’s so important for the future of architecture at ArchDaily.

Prefabricated Wooden Building Elements Pay Off at the Construction Site

Wood construction is more sustainable, more beautiful, and might also be less expensive in the long run, according to a new report by Metsä Wood, a European wood construction supplier. The use of prefabricated building elements made out of wood allows faster building turnaround, leading to more profitable construction projects, shorter investment payback times and fewer on-site accidents.

The company looked at how utilizing these elements, like laminated veneer lumber roof panels, change the construction process at a building site. These panels can be assembled within a single working day, and ultimately provide on-site weather protection with no additional costs by sheilding the building site beneath much more effectively than a temporary tent.

With prefabrication, large sections of a building can be constructed offsite in a controlled indoor environment, reducing the risk of accidents and consequent delays.

“Assembling ready-made wood elements can replace the potentially more dangerous process of having to build a roof from beams, panels and bitumen at the heights of an unfinished building,” says Lambert van den Bosch, a project subcontractor in charge of wood construction at Heko Spanten. “On-site accidents are of course not frequent, but every single one of them should be avoided.”

It can also reduce on-site waste and the need to transport it after the project is done, as well as cutting back loose on-site building materials that can be unwieldy and difficult to protect from weather and theft.

The Chelsea Project: High-Rise Wood Condo Tower for NYC

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America’s top metropolis is set to get on board with wooden megastructures, hinting toward a tipping point that’ll boost demand for tall wooden buildings throughout the country. One of the winners of the USDA’s recent tall timber building competition, this ten-story condominium by SHoP Architects is a soaring 120 feet high and will overlook the High Line, the city park built on an old elevated freight rail line.

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Planned for 475 West 18th Street, the project will have retail space on the ground floor in addition to dozens of new gorgeous-looking, modern wood-lined apartments. The environmentally friendly project aims to reduce overall energy consumption by at least 50 percent relative to current energy codes, and will seek LEED Platinum certification.

SHoP architect Chris Sharples notes that “every element of the building, right down to the elevator core, can be constructed in wood.” Aside from the sustainability of its construction, the building is notable for the warmth that its wood facade brings to an urban landscape that can otherwise be quite hard and cold, packed with steel and concrete.

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Boosting the profile of wooden buildings could be a big boon to the entire industry, says U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who announced the winners of the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition at a press conference in September 2015. A proposal called Framework in Portland, Oregon is the second winner.

“The U.S. wood products industry is vitally important as it employs more than 547,000 people in manufacturing and forestry, with another 2.4 million jobs supported by U.S. private forest owners. By embracing the benefits of wood as a sustainable building material, these demonstration projects have the ability to help change the face of our communities, mitigate climate change and support jobs in rural America. I look forward to seeing how these two buildings help lead the way in furthering the industry.”

Wooden Buildings Fight Climate Change by Sequestering Carbon

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Not only is wood a naturally sustainable, renewable material – it can actually help the fight against climate change by sequestering carbon dioxide, while concrete manufacturing pumps the potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry confirmed that switching to wood construction is a boon for the environment in several different ways, stressing that sustainable forest management creates jobs and reduces the risk of forest fires, too. And as a matter of fact, increasing wood harvests could actually lead to greater benefits.

“The 3.4 billion cubic meters of wood harvested each year accounts for only 20% of new annual growth,” reads the study. “Increasing the wood harvest to 34% or more would have several profound and positive effects. Emissions amounting to 14-31% of global CO2 would be avoided by creating less steel and concrete, and by storing CO2 in the cell structure of wood products. A further 12-19% of annual global fossil fuel consumption would be saved, including savings from burning scrap wood and unsellable materials for energy.”

The study was undertaken by scientists from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the University of Washington’s College of the Environment. The results make it clear that using wood to build large-scale architectural and infrastructure projects, from skyscrapers to bridges, is an essential step to sustainably meeting demand for new construction as economic development surges, especially in places like Asia, Africa and South America.

Meanwhile, new construction techniques are making wood even stronger and more versatile, especially cross-laminated timber, which is at the center of all the new record-breaking multi-story wood buildings that are currently being built or planned around the world. While most of that development is happening in Europe, Portland, Oregon is currently the center of wood construction innovation in the United States, according to Newsweek. The tallest wood-framed buildings in the country are currently in progress there as local timber product manufacturers make CLT from regionally produced wood.

Top image: A new 12-story mixed-use wooden building planed for Portland, Oregon by Lever Architecture.

Vertical Pine Planks Create Stunning Spiral Staircase in Dome Home

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An unusual arrangement of pine boards forms a spiraling core for a sculptural staircase that stands as the centerpiece of a dome home in China. Designed by British furniture manufacturers Timothy Oulton, the cylindrical home and the charming handmade village that surrounds it are made primarily of reclaimed materials. Taking its inspiration from spiderwebs, the structure itself is a stunning model of wooden craftsmanship, but the staircase takes the cake.

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Graduating in height all the way up to the railing of the loft, the vertically-installed pine supports a set of floating treads that spiral from the living area up to a quiet workspace. The result is visually stunning from every angle, but especially when gazing down from the upper level.

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The design team used custom steel plates and fittings to support the staircase as well as the loft, which takes up half the footprint of the house. Perpendicular planks punctuated by curving vertical ribs create a series of concentric circles on the ceiling, drawing the eye upwards.

New Landscapes of Wooden Architecture: The Timberization of Cities

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How will cities change in the future as wood becomes a viable material for skyscrapers and other large structures? The ‘timberization’ of urban areas is among the topics covered in the May 2014 issue of A+U Magazine, entitled ‘New Landscapes of Wooden Architecture.’

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Nine exciting and innovative built works in wood are explored, including the stunning Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Center in New Zealand (pictured top), ‘Bear’s House in the Woods’ by Alberta Architekturbüro and Patrick Thurston (above), and the Makoko Floating Schoole by NLÉ (below.)

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Another notable inclusion is Finland’s highest wooden multi-story structure, ‘Wood City‘ (below.) The eight-story residential buildings in Helsinki will be the first massive-wood buildings in Europe, and built with modular technology.

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Many cities around the world are beginning to change their building codes to allow high-rise structures made of wood. Read more about the trend, as well as a 34-story wooden tower planned for Stockholm. A+U magazine delves into this topic and other aspects of wood technology – get the issue through ArchDaily.