Building materials alone, such as carbon and steel, account for 11% of global carbon emissions. That’s why building designers and development companies across the globe are opting to build with wood. A study from Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research discovered that with good forest management, a worldwide increase in wooden buildings could sequester up to 700 million tons of carbon annually (as wood stores carbon, preventing its release into the air). The concept is already popular: Google’s Sidewalk Labs has proposed a dozen-acre timber community in Toronto, while in February, France established a mandate that public buildings after the year 2022 be built of at a minimum 50% wood or other organic materials. The University of Arkansas finished work on the most sizable timber building in the United States last autumn, a 202,000-square-foot dorm. Building designers (and governments) are loving this material and discovering innovative applications for timber.
Zaha Hadid Architects in Gloucestershire, England, designed the 5,000-seat football stadium known as Eco Park Stadium, home of the Forest Green Rovers, proclaimed “the greenest football club in the world”, by the FIFA. All meals supplied players and audience members are vegan. Zaha Hadid Architects’ proposed new home base for the team doubles as a carbon-neutral, all-timber stadium—the first of its variety across the globe. The 5,000-seat park will be built mostly from sustainably sourced wood and will be suffused with natural lighting, owing to a light in weight, transparent “roof membrane”. The stadium’s exquisite form, asserts project director Jim Heverin, is also owed to the flexibility and affordability of the material, this owing to the fabrication process and timber’s light weight. While standard stadiums release between 790 pounds and 2,800 pounds of carbon per seat, ZHA estimates that Eco Park Stadium will contribute approximately 440 pounds for each seat.
Henning Larsen of Copenhagen, Denmark, is responsible for the 7,000-person neighbourhood known as FÆLLEDBY QUARTER. This development, being plotted on what was previously a junkyard in Copenhagen, is the city’s first new community built totally from timber. The neighbourhood was designed as a team effort with biologists and environmental engineers; 40% of the 45-acre building site is being preserved as undeveloped habitat to provide homes for regional flora and fauna. Henning Larsen partner Signe Kongebro says that, because 70% of the earth’s population is expected to reside in cities by the year 2050, cities and natural areas must be artfully melded. The company intends to employ prefabricated timber panels sourced from business partners through Europe and to introduce nests for birds and bats (built into the facades), as well as other features that nurture nature.
Voll Arkitekter in Brumunddal, Norway, built the 18-story tower known as MJØSTÅRNET, a high rise considered the tallest all-timber tower constructed. Varying conflicting opinions about timber’s fire safety have been presented: Architects in the U.K. are trying to have it deleted from a flammable-materials ban imposed in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy (although that tower was not comprised of timber), and Norway imposed similar regulations until the year 1997. The wood included in the Mjøstårnet tower was subjected to extensive testing, including a test in which sizable columns were burned for an hour and a half. They were structurally strong, save for exterior charring. The material, along with structural precautions Voll Arkitekter added to the structure to stop fire from spreading, passed Norway’s strict building standards.