Architecture

Seeds planted for London's first wooden skyscraper

Seeds planted for London's fir...
Should it go ahead, the tower would rise to a height of 300 m (984 ft)
Should it go ahead, the tower would rise to a height of 300 m (984 ft)
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Should it go ahead, the tower would rise to a height of 300 m (984 ft)
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Should it go ahead, the tower would rise to a height of 300 m (984 ft)
The skyscraper design is the work of researchers at Cambridge University’s Department of Architecture, working alongside PLP Architecture and engineering firm Smith and Wallwork
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The skyscraper design is the work of researchers at Cambridge University’s Department of Architecture, working alongside PLP Architecture and engineering firm Smith and Wallwork
The Barbican skyscraper is just the first in a series of timber skyscrapers that are being developed by Cambridge University
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The Barbican skyscraper is just the first in a series of timber skyscrapers that are being developed by Cambridge University
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Researchers at Cambridge University's Department of Architecture, working alongside PLP Architecture and engineering firm Smith and Wallwork, have presented conceptual plans for a wooden skyscraper to London mayor Boris Johnson. If it went ahead, the timber tower would be the tallest of its kind in the world.

While it's too soon to comment as to the project's chances of actually getting built, the tower is slated for London's Barbican Estate and would, along with nearby mid-rise terraces, provide 1,000 much-needed new homes and around 1 million sq ft (304,800 sq m) of residential floorspace for England's capital.

More impressively still, the 80-story building would rise to a total height of 300 m (984 ft), making it the second-tallest building in London (after the Shard), and the tallest timber skyscraper in the world. Constructing it would be a real engineering challenge.

The skyscraper design is the work of researchers at Cambridge University’s Department of Architecture, working alongside PLP Architecture and engineering firm Smith and Wallwork
The skyscraper design is the work of researchers at Cambridge University’s Department of Architecture, working alongside PLP Architecture and engineering firm Smith and Wallwork

"We've designed the architecture and engineering and demonstrated it will stand, but this is at a scale no one has attempted to build before," says Dr Michael Ramage, Director of Cambridge's Centre for Natural Material Innovation. "We are developing a new understanding of primary challenges in structure and construction. There is a lot of work ahead, but we are confident of meeting all the challenges before us."

There would be other challenges to overcome, too – not least the concern that a stray spark may burn the whole thing down. As we've previously argued, wooden construction done correctly can actually outperform steel and concrete in a fire. Still, whether building regulators, planners, insurance companies and the general public agree on that is another matter.

The Barbican skyscraper is the first in a series of timber skyscraper proposals that are being developed by Cambridge University alongside architecture firms and engineers.

Source: University of Cambridge

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9 comments
Daniel Gregory
I don't see how anyone could think this is a good idea...or even a sustainable one.
Wolf0579
One word.
Fire.
Fairly Reasoner
Just because you could, doesn't mean you should.
TimothyNorwood
What about aging, not that concrete is impervious to time, but seems to me that the rate that correctly engineered concrete degrades would far out last the timeline for engineered wood
peritaxi
Historically what most often holds human progress back is the illusion we are rational animals open to a better future with an open mind; in truth we too easily revert to being naked apes unwilling to leave our rock caves, looking at the past for replication instead of evolving. But CLT is sustainable, stronger than steel, well proven and tested. Look for yourself.
CLT - Cross Laminated Timber is more than just fancy plywood - a sophisticated technology pioneered by Germany which has evolved the process over the last 130 years. It started in Berlin in 1892 at the Polytechnic Engineering College and has evolved as much as any German technology over the same time period. There are already massive multi-story apartment buildings, resorts, warehouses all over the world, standing for decades which answer questions to the most provincial skeptic.
Interested in learning more? Start by Googling CLT. An interesting one is a 7story CLT apartment building on the Kobe shaking table taking 30g shocks simulating a 7.6 Earth quake. (note the shocks tore off some of the hanging lights while the building sustained only minor damage)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=T08KRyVhyeo
See if it isn't time for us to take our heads out of our collective caves for yourself....
Douglas Bennett Rogers
This is a good way to sequester carbon if it lasts substantially longer than the tree. Wood performs substantially better than steel at the fatigue limit. As for efficiency, there is ever less need to concentrate people into large buildings.
noteugene
London fire part II
Beachhawk
My God! Two words: Fire and termites. Who on Earth ever thought an 800 meter residential tower was a good idea? Someone ahead of me has said it all: Just because we can, doesn't mean we should. This is a really, really bad idea.
PlatingScienceNetherlands
Wooden structures require treatment with Flame Retardant Coating: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIQqolQ3Sp8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xJdzLTYSNU