It was just at the start of this month that I Blogged about timber-framed skyscrapers possibly transforming London’s skyline. Well we now have some pictures of what is proposed for the first one of them to be built.These architect’s impressions don’t actually show what it will look like when completed; just shows the timber framing erected. It is to be 300 metres high with 80 storeys and will be the second tallest building in London. They do go some way towards answering my thoughts on how they can get the strength there to support all this height. The load bearing timber components at the corners must have a huge cross-section! A lot bigger than our house’s footprint! All this timber is to be cross-laminated which will give it far greater strength in both compression and tension than a single piece of timber.I’ll still be interested to learn, though, by how much the ceilings on the ground floor will be lowered with 79 storeys being built above!
What I have no quibble about is the use of timber in construction. Timber has been a prime building material since the days of the Cave Men. I’m not sure exactly when it went out of fashion but suspect it was sometime in the 19th. Century. The other thing is that I hope they leave much of the timber structure exposed internally. Recently it has been shown that kids do better at school if it is a timber structure. Part of the reason for this may be the “spiritual earthing” I blethered about, but is also, I suspect, due to the fact that timber kills off bacteria! That would result in the school kids having better overall health. How it could be left exposed internally and still comply with Fire Regulations, I don’t know. I do however, have it in my head that while timber is being kiln dried and treated against insect attack, etc., it can also be fire-proofed. Maybe that is the intention?
Sustainability is a key priority these days, though. Certainly there is a policy of three trees being planted for every one felled. We do need our trees because they are what put oxygen into the air we breathe. How long though, does it take for a suitable tree to grow to maturity so it can be used for construction; 50 years? 100 years? There is a problem I can see if we do start to use timber extensively for construction. The rate at which we need to build would probably see the countryside in most countries stripped of trees. This is a situation seen in the U.K. during the Victorian era when the population exploded from around 6 million to 50 million and houses had to be built to accommodate people. At the beginning of Victoria’s reign the country was one of extensive woodlands; by the end, forests were a rarity and, today, are mainly Protected, such as are the New Forest and Grizedale Forest.
That seems to dump us in the great “Can’t win for losing” syndrome! Do we reduce CO2 production by not using as much concrete and steel in construction or do we reduce the oxygen in the atmosphere by felling trees and using timber?
At least the London night time skyline will be impressive once this wooden skyscraper is built.