Office Towers Made From … Wood?

Office Towers Made From … Wood?

I’m not going to lie; when I first heard about CREE Buildings and their efforts to erect skyscrapers made from wood, I was more than just a little skeptical. I couldn’t help but recall the story of the Three Little Pigs and the image of the wolf…huffing, puffing, and blowing down the house.

But, seeing is believing.  In November, 2012, CREE Buildings opened its doors to LCT ONE in Dornbirn, Austria – the world’s first 8-story timber hybrid building.  The office tower was built using glulam wood beams as the primary building material and combined with a limited amount of concrete, using a process called the LifeCycle Tower system.  (It took only 8 days to erect 8 stories – check out the time-lapse video below.)

Put simply, they’re scaling the already familiar pre-fab, modular construction model and applying it to industrial office construction to buildings as high as 30 stories.  The benefits of prefabricated construction are many – shorter construction times, reduced construction waste and fewer resources used throughout manufacturing, to name a few.

I caught up with CREE’s CEO, Michael Zangeri, at GreenBuild in San Francisco recently, where he converted me from skeptic to evangelist.

Cree LifeCycle Tower systems deliver tall commercial green buildings, up to 30 stories with 90% fewer C02 emissions, reduced costs, and 50% shorter construction time.

One of my first concerns was related to my perception of wood being more dangerous in a fire than steel.  Well, apparently wood is safer in a fire than its unpredictable counterpart, which can collapse instantly and without warning in high temperatures.  Wood on the other hand has a predictable burning rate.

From a sustainability perspective, wood is just about as an abundant and renewable raw material you can find.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of steel and many other building materials.

And what does a skyscraper made from wood look like?  Absolutely nothing like you’d expect.  Aesthetically, they’re gorgeous.  Check out the pics below and see for yourself.