Faced with a future where urban growth will necessarily go hand-in-hand with the fight against climate change, Think Wood, an initiative launched by the North American timber sector, asked designers, developers and wood experts to analyse how the latest trends in architecture and design will influence the increased use of this natural, renewable material.
The recent changes to the International Building Code will lead to a rise in the number of tall timber buildings. Wood construction experts are convinced that as research, tests and innovations progress, these types of buildings will be taller.
Prefabrication and modular technology
Off-site, prefabricated and modular construction methods continue to grow in popularity due to their ability to save time and money. The industry is aware of the benefits wood provides in this segment, with major developers focusing on this trend. Sidewalk Labs, an urban planning and architecture firm that is part of the Google group, plans to invest 80 million dollars in a timber factory and its supply chain for the construction of modular buildings as a means of boosting the local timber industry and cutting construction times by up to 35%.
Innovative business models
Industrialised construction is inspiring new business models rooted in technology. Innovation is boosting company integration and new start-ups, as well as investment. In this sense, wood and prefabricated design have become differentiating elements in all sectors of the industry.
Hines, an international real estate investment firm, has created the T3 brand (Timber, Transit and Technology), which it has used to launch a number of projects for timber structured office buildings.
New design tools
New digital design tools, such as BIM, DFMA, 3D rendering software or augmented virtual reality, are opening up new possibilities for timber construction and design.
Brock Commons, a students’ hall of residence at the University of British Colombia and a global icon for timber construction, set a precedent in terms of the possibilities these new tools offer. VDC (Virtual Design and Construction), supported by 3D representation, was used to manage the project for this 18 storey building located in Vancouver. In addition, BIM provided a useful tool in planning the unloading and delivery times for the various elements.
Embodied energy and zero balance goals
Cities and governments are showing an increasing interest in using low carbon footprint building materials as part of their strategy in the fight against climate change.
Architects are taking the lead in promoting low carbon construction techniques. A number of cities are setting goals to reduce emissions embodied in new building and construction projects. And in this area, wood has a major role to play.
The town of Cornellá de Llobregat (Barcelona) is the site for a new 5 storey building featuring a CLT structure. The local authorities – Barcelona Metropolitan Area and Cornellá Town Council – are developing this project directed by architects Marta Peris and José Manuel Toral.
Biophilic design is the latest trend set to boost the use of wood in the construction industry. This emerging concept aims to include elements from nature into urban or indoor spaces in order to generate positive feelings of wellbeing amongst people.
In line with this trend, a growing amount of scientific research is proving that building with wood can be beneficial for our health and wellness.