Engineered Timber, the Sustainable Building Material of the Future

17th Apr 2013

All around the world construction is an industry that consumes a lot of energy and is generally renowned for being unsustainable. One solution that is growing in popularity is the use of engineered wood, a sustainable material that is strong enough to support even a tall building.

The world’s tallest wood-framed building currently is a block of boutique apartments in Melbourne, Australia. Standing 106 feet tall the building, known as Forté, was the fruit of Lend Lease Corp. Ltd, the giant development firm famous for building the Sydney Opera House and helping with the construction of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the world tallest building from 1998 to 2004.

The structural beams were built from cross-laminated timber (CLT). A material produced by gluing together, under high pressure, layers of wood, alternating between lengthwise and crosswise grain. Compressing the layers under high pressure results in an incredibly dense material that is far stronger than normal wooden beams; and, whilst fire might be a natural fear to consider with a wooden building, CLT is highly flame resistant due to its density. Using CLT also decreases construction time, and therefore reduces costs, by offering the possibility of having interlocking joints pre-manufactured. Lend Lease claim that the construction time of the Forté project was reduced by 30% by using CLT with pre-manufactured joints.

Forte Timber Framed Building

The Forté website displays a list of features included in the building’s design, such as: rainwater capture; LED lights; bike share, secure bike parking; car share; downtown neighbourhood just two minutes from the waters front; veggie garden on each balcony; reversible heat/AC units; rainwater assisted toilet; elevators with regenerative braking; solar shading; It doesn’t actually look like they set the efficiency bar remarkably high by current standards.

Located in Victoria Harbour, central Melbourne, the apartments range in price from US$446,000 to $825,000.

By. Joao Peixe