Skyscrapers Made of Wood and Glue

An Eighty-Story Wooden Building

Wood construction of multi-story buildings is an emerging trend. Mass timber is created by mixing wood with glue that’s then pressed, giving it the strength of steel and concrete. North America has 17 mass timber manufacturing plants. Some estimate the global market for engineered wood, which was $956 million in 2020, could grow at an annual rate of 13.6% through 2028.

In the US, 1,300 structures were built using mass timber from July 2020 to December 2021. Though the International Building Code limits wooden buildings to 18 stories, officials have made exceptions. Builders have submitted proposals in Tokyo and London for wooden skyscrapers as high as 70 to 80 floors.

Faster and Cheaper

Advocates of wooden skyscrapers argue the construction is better for the environment than traditional concrete and steel buildings and that the carbon footprint can be reduced by using sustainably harvested timber.

Experts say builders can reduce construction costs and finish projects more quickly when swapping wood for steel and concrete. An architect involved in the construction of a 20-story building in Sweden noted that the use of mass timber allowed them to complete the project a year earlier than if they went with traditional materials.

Safety and Environmental Concerns

While mass timber offers time and cost savings to builders and architects, some market observers have concerns, including the integrity of the material itself, and how it might hold up to water intrusion, the impact of an earthquake, or in a fire.

Environmentalists also fear that as demand grows, old growth forests may end up at risk, if and when sustainable sources are exhausted. The search for new sources of timber also means more fossil fuel usage, potentially damaging the environment. Still, forward-thinking types are intrigued by the idea of once tall trees being used in soaring skyscrapers.

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James Flippin ABOUT James Flippin James Flippin is the son of a financial advisor who grew up hearing and learning about bond yields, interest rates, the stock market, and the ins and outs of Wall Street. After stints as a licensing and business broker for Marcus and Millichap in New York City, James moved into broadcasting and became a reporter and anchor. He covered crime, politics, finance, and tech at NBC News Radio while working part-time as a producer for SiriusXM. James graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics. He's also an accomplished podcaster with over 10-years of experience.

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