Engineered Wood Products Spawn Innovation

From the earliest days of shelter until the advent of concrete, brick and steel, wood was a primary construction material. Now, new developments in “engineered wood” are enabling developers to build higher and bigger structures, leading to a year-on-year increase in the use of wood for both residential and non-residential construction.

The traditional uses of natural wood for frames, roof supports, flooring and ornamental cladding remains popular, but modern wood products such as hardwood cross-laminated timber (CLT) are receiving significant interest among property developers. This is leading to revolutionary architectural trends of building solely in wood.

Building for the Future – the Benefits of Wood

With the super strength of CLT, wood can now be considered a viable material for the construction of taller buildings, while the ability to prefabricate all or parts of these buildings in central locations leads to cost-competitiveness. Developers and promoters alike highly favor both factors.

End consumers appreciate wood for its eco-friendliness and high “emissions efficiency,” as well as its ability to favorably impact both psychological and physiological health. Properly cared for, wood is immensely durable and totally renewable, and can sustain its natural beauty for decades – or even centuries.

Using wood as a primary construction material will necessitate some change of direction in building techniques, with a predicted resurgence of traditional artisan and carpentry skills.

The Challenges of Constructing with Wood

Wood demonstrates excellent thermal performance, as insulation is easily added to structures, increasing energy efficiency and lowering a building’s carbon footprint. Interior condensation is addressed by placing polyethylene sheeting between inside walls and the insulation.

Although the production of wood itself is cost competitive, its use implies a slightly higher price point compared with masonry, primarily because the market lacks craftsmen, carpenters and large builders who are well-qualified in these products. Therefore, increased training and the use of proven systems should drive lower prices in the future. Although wood is considered a highly flammable material, it can be used safely for buildings that are carefully constructed, with functional safety systems in place. The risk to life from fire does not appear to be any greater than that in a brick or concrete structure.

Central Bergen Unveils “The Tree”

A new 14-story luxury apartment block in Bergen, Norway is a stunning example of the use of engineered wood for tall construction. This stacked modular-design structure is called “Treet” (“The Tree”), and is today the world’s tallest timber-framed multi-purpose building, but not for long. Currently, there are many taller wood buildings under construction around the world.