Did you say “wood”? | The Plan
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Did you say “wood”?

DRMM | Alison Brooks Architects | Populous

Wood has been the most widely used construction material in all cultures of the world since building began, as the many architectural masterpieces come down to us from past centuries prove. Man has always been aware, however, of timber’s limited duration. If not protected, carefully maintained, and at times even replaced, wood is destined to have a fairly short lifespan. This lifecycle appeared even shorter with the triumphant arrival onto the construction scene of reinforced concrete and steel, with the result that wood became relegated to a restricted number of construction solutions. In recent decades though, environmental sensitivity has put timber back in the construction materials map for its evident sustainability, great workability and quality finishes that lend unrivaled warmth especially to residential buildings. This has recently been followed by seminal research into wood that has overturned our preconceived ideas. Thanks to fiber-strengthening engineering processes, hardwood is now recognized as an eligible construction material also in conditions of high loads and stresses. The following pages look at three very different projects illustrating this new frontier for wood as a structural building material. All three are the result of research, technological innovation, and collaboration among several key actors: the American Hardwood Export Council whose members have, over generations, sensitively harvested and extracted valuable raw material from this renewable resource; engineering firm Arup that investigated wood’s properties and tested its performance, drawing up a protocol - using apparently simple but highly sophisticated technology - that became the blueprint for a high-performance construction material subsequently developed by German industrial expert Züblin and Hess Timber; and finally, firms like Alison Brooks Architects, dRMM Architects and Populous whose structurally demanding projects were made from enhanced versions of...

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