Timber Towers

Skyscrapers have been made out of concrete, glass, and steel since the first skyscraper was built. Before these building materials were used it was impossible to build that high – wood wouldn’t cut it. Wood wasn’t strong enough so steel had to be used for the core support structure.

Thanks to new techniques, that we’ve looked at before, skyscrapers can be built using wood. Wooden towers create less of a carbon footprint because cement and steel require a lot of energy to become useful whereas wood just grows on trees. In Amsterdam a 240-foot residential tower has been proposed and this is just one of many wooden tower projects being built around the world.

What developers hope will be the world’s tallest timber tower is currently under construction in Vancouver, and a growing tall timber building trend popular in Europe continues to gain momentum, with recent proposals for timber skyscrapers from cities such as London, Stockholm, and Bordeaux (France’s fifth-largest city). Now Amsterdam—whose skyline is not defined by high-rise buildings—has thrown its hat in the ring with Haut, a 240-foot-tall timber residential tower designed by Dutch firm Team V Architecture. Set to begin construction in the second half of 2017, Haut will be the tallest timber tower in the Netherlands and possibly the world (depending on how quickly construction schedules go).

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Architecture Should Be A Story

For architect Ole Scheeren, the people who live and work inside a building are as much a part of that building as concrete, steel and glass. He asks: Can architecture be about collaboration and storytelling instead of the isolation and hierarchy of a typical skyscraper? Visit five of Scheeren’s buildings — from a twisted tower in China to a floating cinema in the ocean in Thailand — and learn the stories behind them.

People Recycle More in Green Buildings

Researchers at UBC have studied the recycling behaviour of people who work in green buildings to those who don’t and found that – regardless of their past habits – people in green buildings recycle more. This is really nifty because it proves that design of an interior space alone can impact how people recycle and the efficiency of waste management.

“Design can absolutely influence people,” Susan Gushe, a principal with the firm, told CBC News.

She says there are several things designers take into consideration when integrating recycling and garbage receptacles into buildings, such as:

  • Locating them in areas where people are likely to use them, such as the CIRS’s kitchenettes.
  • Making bins easy to access for patrons and maintenance staff.
  • Clearly labelling bins.
  • It’s also important to make the recycling hubs look good, she said.

“Do you want to see great big bins out in the corridor? No, not really,” says Gushe. “You want to integrate the utilitarian things in a building into the fabric of the building, so that you don’t have this really ugly stuff sitting out there.”

Read more at CBC.

Bamboo is Super!

Bamboo grows quickly and so to is the market for bamboo. The plant can be used for many different things from building to bicycles, but what’s so great about it today is that more construction sites are aware of how great bamboo is. Bamboo can be used to build stand-alone structures or be used as scaffolding at a construction site – either way bamboo also acts as a carbon sink.

The fast growing rugged grass has “unrivaled capacity to capture carbon” the article claims.

The bamboo industry hails the crop’s other environmental benefits. Because it shoots up quickly – as much as a meter (over 3 feet) in a day – it is highly renewable.

According to the Bamboo Clothing website, it thrives without fertilizers or pesticides, requires little water, grows on slopes too inhospitable for other crops, and has a 10 times higher yield per acre than cotton. Want more? It does not uproot soil (harvesting involves cutting it as it’s a grass) and it’s 100 percent biodegradable, the website notes.

The World Bamboo Organization says today’s bamboo market is $10 billion and could double in five years. China produces about 80 percent of the world’s supply, but other nations are turning to it as a cash crop.

Read more here.

The Growing Industry of Green Cement

Cement is a very popular building material for a lot of good reasons, the problem though is that the process of making it requires a ton of energy. This problem has led to a growing number of people looking into ways to make cement less damaging to the planet. We’ve covered cement on here before.

The Smithsonian has a good round-up of the current world of greening the cement industry. In some ways these solutions can work together.

Though still refining its procedures, Novacem is racing with at least five other companies and university centers to come up with a greener cement. “Given all the attention to carbon these days, a lot of entrepreneurs have popped up,” said MIT’s Jennings. “They see the opportunity side.” With cement a $170 billion-a-year industry, investment money is pouring in.

A California company called Calera has perhaps the most unusual approach: It harnesses carbon dioxide emitted from a power plant and mixes it with seawater or brine to create carbonates that are used to make cement. They can be added to Portland cement to replace some or all of the limestone. Calera is backed by a $50 million investment from Vinod Khosla, a computer engineer who is perhaps Silicon Valley’s most respected and deep-pocketed investor in green technologies. “We are actually making our cement out of CO2,” said company founder Brent Constantz. “We are taking CO2 that would have gone into the atmosphere and turning it into cement.” The technology is still in development, with a demonstration plant in Moss Landing, California, and a partnership with a Chinese group to build a plant next to a coal mine in Inner Mongolia, where they plan to use carbon dioxide emissions to make cement.

Calix, an Australian company, makes cement using superheated steam, which modifies the cement particles and makes them purer and more chemically reactive. The process also separates out carbon dioxide, making it easier to capture the gas and keep it out of the atmosphere.

Louisiana Tech University, like Novacem and Calera, is doing away with limestone altogether; it’s using a paste called geopolymer, which is made of fly ash, sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide.

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