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Wood as Strong as Steel Brings New Trend: Wood High-Rises and Skyscrapers

Min Hong

By Min Hong

Office Manager & Accounting, Canada Wood Korea

May 29, 2017

MBC, one of the three national TV networks in Korea, aired a news clip on wooden high rise buildings and skyscrapers during Newsdesk, the prime time evening news program, on January 25, 2017. The video clip can be viewed online from following link (use Internet Explorer for viewing). Running time: 1min 58 sec:

[Anchor] Wood buildings have broken the fixed ideas that buildings made of wood are vulnerable to fire and weak, and have gained much attention recently. They are fire-resistant and as strong as the ones made of stone or steel. And, in the UK, an 80-storey skyscraper wood building project is being proposed.

This report is by Yoo-Jin Jang.

[Reporter] (Showing “Treet” in Bergen, Norway) It’s a 14-storey apartment building made entirely of wood. It stands 51m high, the tallest existing wood building in the world.

(Showing UBC’s Brock Commons) However, this record will be broken soon, because in August, 18-storey wood building will be completed in Canada. Not to be outdone, the UK is proposing an 80-storey wood skyscraper.

(Interview with Robert Malczyk, Structural Engineer) “The buildings between five to twelve-stories can be built cheaper in mass wood than in concrete.”

The secret is orienting each layer of sawn lumber perpendicular to adjacent layers and applying pressure for bonding. The strength of this high tech engineered wood product, CLT made from pine, is four times greater than that of ordinary pine sawn lumber. CLT also has high fire resistance due to its laminations and only the surface is charred black under ordinary house fire condition.

(Interview with Dr. Moon Jae Park, Korea Forest Research Institute (KFRI)) “If you use fire resistant building materials such as gypsum boards together with CLT, the fire resistance will be maintained even more reliably.”

Trees also store carbon dioxide they have absorbed until being logged, and wood is the most environment-friendly building material. (Showing Central Laboratory of Forest Genetic Resources Department of KFRI) This wood building stores 426 tons of carbon dioxide. It amounts to the carbon dioxide absorbed and captured for 40 years by 1-hectare of 30 year old forest made up of pine trees.

With the renewed attention to the advantages of high-tech engineered wood products, the KFRI is planning to build a 10-storey wood apartment building by 2022.

MBC News, Yoo-Jin Jang.