Could timber structures be a solution to climate change?

In a recent article published by the BBC, the author discusses the possibility of returning to wooden structures as a primary building material. Ever since introduced, concrete has been used as the primary building material due to its high strength and durability. Since the climate change issues are altering the geographic conditions of our mother Earth, some modern architects like Andrew Waugh are proposing wooden buildings as the solution for climate change.  

The whole idea proposed by the architect lead to the design of the 10-story development in Dalston, London. In the controversial article, the author describes that the wooden structure designed in a contemporary fashion has multiple advantages and even smells good. In the proposed building, instead of having the wood for molding and pouring concrete, here the woof is concrete. The timber structures only weigh about 20% of the concrete buildings which amazingly diminishes the gravitational load and hence the number of foundations. It even has a timber core, timber walls, and timber floor slabs. This helps in reducing the amount of steel used to a minimum. In the majority of the modern building steel is utilized as internal support, or to reinforce concrete. However in the proposed design there much lesser or minimal steel sections. 

Concrete is accountable for about 4-8% of carbon emissions in the world. As a tree grows, it traps carbon dioxide inside it as they absorb it from the atmosphere. A cubic meter of wood may contain approximately a tonne of CO2. This is similar to 350 liters of Gasoline. The timber structures allow us to draw carbon from the atmosphere and stores it in the structure developed. This theory has been trending amongst the climate change theories and many are believing that wooden buildings are the future of sustainable architecture. Our dependency on concrete and steel does come with a severe effect on the environment. Time for adopting sustainable and nature-friendly architecture has exceeded and this may end up being a crucial turning point in history and certainly not a fad or fashion. 

Waugh and a growing group of international architects are convinced that the cross-laminated timber (CLT) or engineered wood is a crucial weapon for fighting climate change. Cross-laminated timber is nothing but ordinary 3m (10ft) planks of wood, one inch thick, replete with knot-holes and splinters. The planks are strengthened by gluing them in layers of 3 or more, perpendicular to each other. It provides integral strength in two directions and it acts as a beam that doesn’t bow or bend. With his extensive experience with CLT structures, Waugh testifies that such structures can achieve anything a steel and concrete building can. Although the proposed model is an ideal theoretical solution for the existing carbon issue, the “end of life” situation needs to be taken into account. The carbon absorbed by the wood remains trapped inside until the building stands or until it is reused in other buildings. If the wood is rot or burned, the captivated carbon will again be released back to the atmosphere. Although the recycling of the wooden structures hence used remain as an unfinished sentence, Waugh is still ambitious about the larger lifetime of wooden structures (50-60) years and believes that the evolving technology may come up with better solutions in near future. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *