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Tall buildings: Plyscrapers | The Economist


Stashed in: Ecology!, Design

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The case for wooden high rises is rooted in their environmental benefits. While concrete emits nearly its own weight in carbon dioxide during production, the raw material for plyscrapers literally grows on trees, absorbing carbon from the atmosphere as it does so. Responsibly harvested wood is naturally renewing and, when a building is finally torn down, can be recycled or burned for energy.

Tomorrow’s wooden towers will bear little resemblance to pioneer-style log cabins or the timber-framed McMansions popular across much of America. They rely on engineered wood products called "mass timber" where multiple thin layers of wood are glued or pinned to form solid panels and beams. The production process removes natural variations from the wood, resulting in consistent and interchangeable structural elements. These are then cut to fit in computer-guided mills before being shipped to the building site, dropped into place by crane and bolted together.

Mass timber can be designed to exceed the strength of reinforced concrete and generally resists fire well, charring at its surface instead of catching fire like the planks used in most American homes. The flat-pack nature of its assembly can also dramatically reduce the labour and time required on-site, to the extent that a 25-metre-tall, mostly wooden building was built last year in Austria in just eight days.

Tall buildings don't just grow on trees!

Oh, wait. Yes they do.

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