The ‘Mass Timber Revolution’ Is Coming
Timber is fast becoming one of the most popular materials to build high-rise buildings, favoured by builders, designers, and architects alike.
Mass timber projects are becoming increasingly popular within the construction industry. With the number of newly-developed timber buildings on the rise, experts predict they are about to take centre stage. Designers, architects, and engineers alike are now becoming aware of the potential for mass timber buildings and, as a result, more and more projects are opting for wood. In this blog, we discuss mass timber projects in further detail, listing the pros and cons associated.
Building with mass timber has recently been introduced to the United States and is also a building type that has been adopted in London in the last few months. In 2016, America’s first modern tall timber building was opened in Minnesota, comprising of seven storeys and a structure built entirely from wooden slabs, columns, and beams. Its name, T3, which may not make sense to many at first glance, stands for timber, technology, and transit. Inside, the building contains 224,000 square feet of office and retail space. The majority of the timber used to form the building came from trees that had been killed by pine beetles; more than 60 million acres of North American forests were wiped out due to the insect, whose population has increased due to global warming, according to reports.
Michael Green Architecture, the architect agency who helped to create T3, said: “With changing building codes throughout North America, tall wood buildings will become more common. A pioneer in this building type, T3 has broken new ground and is perhaps a prototype for future commercial mass timber buildings."
But why is timber becoming increasingly popular for creating tall-standing buildings? There are many benefits associated with using timber, some of which we have listed below:
- Fast and safe construction. Prefabricated sections can be manufactured off-site and assembled on-site, which shortens project timelines and improves safety and accuracy.
- Thermal properties. Mass timber components are installed precisely to ensure a tight fit. This, combined with wood’s natural insulating properties, makes for a strong thermal performance.
- Fire resistance. Large wooden slabs char on the outside and, as a result, protect the inner structure from burning. This is essential, particularly for multi-storey buildings in the event of a fire.
- Strong structural performance. The strength of wood is competitive with steel, although it weighs considerably less. This helps to reduce the load on the foundation during seismic events, which makes for a safe structure.
- Natural material. Timber is a natural building material, which is generally non-toxic, safe to handle and touch, and does not leak chemical vapour into the building. When timber ages, it does so naturally.
- Ecological and sustainable. Timber is a renewable building material that is grown quicker than used. Many timber suppliers have policies to ensure continued availability by planting new trees to replace those that have been harvested. In addition, timber is often used close to where it was originally produced, which helps to promote local economies and reduce the effect of long distance transportation.
However, like most things in this world, it does come with its disadvantages and there are a few obstacles that may prevent mass timber from becoming more of a mainstream building method*, such as the following:
- Acoustic levels. Although improvements can be made to improve acoustics, timber is less likely to achieve the same level of sound insulation as dense materials, such as concrete or masonry. To find out more the differences between timber and masonry, check out our blog.
- Risk of rotting. External timber is known to rot over time. If the timber used has a high moisture content, then either wet or dry rot can develop and pose a risk.
- Local fire codes. Many local fire codes ban wood structures that exceed five or six storeys in order to prevent fire risks.
*As technologies progress, these issues are likely to become less of a barrier.
All in all, timber is a sturdy, ecological, high-performing material to use for buildings, particularly those with multiple storeys, thanks to its unique and beneficial properties. It’s no surprise that it’s often the number one choice for new projects. If you have a question regarding warranties and guarantees for mass timber buildings, feel free to get in touch with our team here.