Tall Wood

Wood is the most significant building material we use today that is grown by the sun. When harvested responsibly, wood is arguably one of the best tools architects and engineers have for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and storing carbon in our buildings. The Case for Tall Wood Buildings expands the discussion of where we will see wood and specifically Mass Timber in the future of the world’s skylines. As we pursue the solar and green energy solutions that Thomas Edison spoke of over 80 years ago, we must consider that we are surrounded by a building material that is manufactured by nature, a material that is renewable, durable and strong.

This report introduces a major opportunity for systemic change in the building industry. For the last century there has been no reason to challenge steel and concrete as the essential structural materials of large buildings. Climate change now demands that we do. The work of thousands of scientists with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has defined one of the most significant challenges of our time. How we address climate change in buildings is a cornerstone in how the world will tackle the need to reduce emissions of green house gases and indeed find ways to store those same gases that are significantly impacting the health of our planet. Just as the automobile industry, energy sector and most other industries will see innovations that challenge the conventions of the way we will live in this century, the building industry must seek innovation in the fundamental materials that we choose to build with. In a rapidly urbanizing world with an enormous demand to house and shelter billions of people in the upcoming decades we must find solutions for our urban environments that have a lighter climate impact than today’s incumbent major structural materials. This report is a major step in that direction. Indeed it introduces the first significant challenge to steel and concrete in tall buildings since their adoption more than a century ago.

The work in this report reflects several years of momentum, effort and conviction by many people interested in the issues of climate change, architecture, wood design and innovation. The story the report tells is one of optimism for a progressive new way of building safe and environmentally-friendly large buildings. The report challenges conventions. It attempts to address preconceptions. We have tried to communicate and educate with the full story of why tall and large wood building structures are important to understand from the point of view of broad principles and at a detailed level. This study is the beginning of a path to realizing built projects. More engineering, research and testing will be required to expand on the ideas we discuss. We hope that architects and engineers will join us in pursuing this discussion and in developing increasingly broader approaches to Tall Wood buildings. We also hope that the ideas within the study will gain momentum within the larger building industry and be the precursor to a revolution in the way we build mid-rise and tall buildings around the globe.

The FFTT Approach

This report introduces a new way of constructing tall buildings. The Mass Timber panel approach we have developed is called FFTT.

FFTT stands for Finding the Forest Through the Trees; a non technical acronym with an important story.

The acronym speaks to the idea that much of the sustainable building conversation is focusing on minutia. While even the minutia contributes and is important, the big systemic change ideas are what we believe will be necessary for the built environment to tackle the scale of the climate change and housing demand challenges facing the world. FFTT is a contribution to hopefully many significant shifts in the way we approach buildings in the next decades. The goal is simply to focus on the forest but never forget the trees.

~Michael C Green MAIBC FRAIC AAA


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Vancouver, Canada

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