August 10, 2016

Would you want to live in an apartment in a wooden skyscraper?

It would be the second tallest building in London — 80 stories — with over 1,000 residential units.
'if london is going to survive it needs to increasingly densify,’ says dr michael ramage, director of cambridge’s centre for natural material innovation. ‘one way is taller buildings. we believe people have a greater affinity for taller buildings in natural materials rather than steel and concrete towers.’...

the proposed 40-storey scheme has been conceived using cross laminated timber, with a pattern of numbers applied to the structure’s distinctive façades. externally, floors can be understood by simply reading the number on the building — similar to the concept of a parking garage...
Here's how that looks from the outside:



Are you picturing the inside?



You like?
 
pollcode.com free polls

49 comments:

Thorley Winston said...

Am I the only one who looks at that building and thinks “I could probably knock it over with a good swift kick?”

Rt1 Rebel said...

I'd be most worried about a fire.

Jim said...

Giant Jenga?

coupe said...

Engineered lumber is as strong as steel, although neither can survive a large airliner or cruise missile attack.

The more people you compress into a space, the greater its value as a military target.

However, engineered lumber sequesters carbon in their wooden frames, so the builder can get carbon credits, which is like free money from environmentalists.

Original Mike said...

Having to look through those numbers everyday would drive me nuts. Absolutely awful.

lemondog said...

Timmmmberrrrrrrrr...........

buwaya puti said...

If London is to stay affordable (hah! We spend much too much money there), the key is to move organizations to the hinterlands and decentralize power.
The reason London ate everything is because the state became the critical factor in everything. This is a familiar process.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

I would have cast my vote for "interesting."

BDNYC said...

Wood is being touted as a way to reduce carbon emissions. Of course.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm worried about fire too. The article addresses the topic... abstrusely:

"other proponents of the material point to shortened construction timescales and a reduction in the building’s overall weight. the application of new technologies also means that when wooden buildings are subject to fire, they now compare favorably against concrete and steel structures."

Because fire is less bad when the structure is lightweight??

coupe said...

If you've seen engineered lumber on This Old House, then you probably know how great it is. While it won't be the first thing to burn, like steel, it will finally fail given enough aircraft fuel and burning flesh.

Did you know that bodies explode in a fire. It's true. The gasses expand in the heat, and then kah-pow, the flaming guts go flying everywhere just like a flame shooter and add to the destruction.

Just think of an airliner filled with 300 exploding bodies. I'm talking a serious BBQ!

smitty said...

Skyscrapers by Ikea.

BDNYC said...

Althouse, the argument I've heard about fire risk is that thick panel wood does not catch fire easily and when it does catch fire it burns very slowly and predictably. That makes some sense, I guess, though I have a hard time believing it compares favorably to concrete and steel.

PB said...

I have no problem with the material, just the horrendous design. This seems to be an attempt to set a record for wooden buildings and win some bizarre architectural prize. who would pay to live n that thing. It'd soon be public housing. then they'll burn it down.

Rocketeer said...

I absolutely think wood could be used to build a functional and beautiful high-rise. This design, however, is ugly as hell. YMMV.

Freeman Hunt said...

Fire by numbers.

Hagar said...

Laminated timber construction is very strong and has better fire ratings han steel. Just ask General Motors' Hydramatic Division.

Freeman Hunt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rhhardin said...

Nobody lives in tree houses these days.

Bruce Hayden said...

I just don't get it. Living right now in a county larger than Delaware, and a population that barely breaks 5 digits (roughly 4 people per square mile), and that seems pretty good to me. Population density in the London metropolitan area is approximately 1,000x as dense. I couldn't live there, even in a wood skyscraper with numbers on the windows.

holdfast said...

Is the wood just the facade? Or the frame too? Because I can't believe that wood would be as good in a fire as a ferrocrete core.

Looks cool from the outside. Looks awful from the inside.

Darrell said...

They can have hot air balloons or blimps holding it up with a safety line--just in case. Steampunk Britain.

madAsHell said...

increasingly densify ???

I'm not taking any advice from a PhD that uses the phrase "increasingly densify". He's trying to sound important when he has nothing to say.

madAsHell said...

I'm just skimming over the details, but those numbers appear to be structural. I don't see how those numbers could bear a load.

Two more issues; sound dampening, and wind deflection. There's nothing like hearing the couple in the next room banging the head board against the wall. The top floors will be a wild ride when a good wind storm sets in.

Brando said...

I like that the woman is wearing cowboy boots in her wooden apartment. No splinters for her!

CWJ said...

My immediate reaction to the filigree on top was YMCA. Or are those supposed to be martini glasses.

tcrosse said...

It would be like living in an episode of Sesame Street.

gspencer said...

So when Habib, a Muslim on Floor 11, lits up and then falls asleep in his bed as his cigarette continues to burn, the burning of that building will be visible from Calais.

"But the building's own fire code prohibits smoking on the premises."

Perhaps so, but manmade laws have no authority over the Muslim, and they'll tell you that over and over. Want proof? The UK outlaws bigamy. And the UK's Muslims laugh and laugh.

campy said...

What number is the floor below 14?

Unknown said...

Just ask General Motors' Hydramatic Division.

Hagar - ?

I had thought the steel skeleton was the key to buildings of limitless height without taper. I am amazed, and skeptical, that you can build a structure like that in wood. I suppose the article substantiates this?

Lance said...

Reminds me of Monty Python's hypnotic flats.

jr565 said...

Didn't the three pigs disprove the idea that we should build houses out of wood? The wolf huffed and puffed and blew that house down

EDH said...

Irwin Allen's "The Towering Matchstick."

Jonathan Graehl said...

this is economical+safe?

Hagar said...

Google 'the great hydramatic fire."
All steel plant that was supposed to be absolutely fireproof, like the "Titanic" was unsinkable.
But steel becomes soft at a comparatively low temperature.

Ann Althouse said...

I wonder what the place smells like? It's all wooden inside. You'd think it would smell like a lumberyard. For how long? And what would it smell like burning? Possibly very pleasant.

(And I have no sense of smell. I just think about these things.)

MadisonMan said...

Thieves will like it. If they see the lights off in, for example, apartment 24 on the 16th floor, they can just go up to the door on that floor and break in.

Original Mike said...

Blogger MadisonMan said..."Thieves will like it."

Indeed.

Robert Marshall said...

Hate to carry the termite bond on that thing!

JAORE said...

I did a bit of digging. And I found THIS bit from the architectural firm interesting:

"The future of the project hinges on Sweden’s 2018 election. If the Center Party remains in power, the architect believes there is a strong chance his wood skyscraper will be built. "

Smells of crony capitalism to me....

Likely also means the structure would be far cheaper with conventional materials.

MountainMan said...

The question of metal vs wood structures is usually discussed in engineering curricula. In my Strength of Materials class at Ga Tech in Spring 1971 our professor led a nice discussion on this topic.

In a fire you would always prefer to be in a wooden structure than a metal one. Fires don’t generally start with the structure but with items in the structure - an appliance, furniture, carpets, drapes, etc. With a wooden structure it can be quite a while before the actual wood components in the buildings structure start to burn. The ones you worry most about are the beams in the floors and the ceiling/roof. Those can burn quite a while before they lose their structural integrity and cause a building collapse.

It’s a different story with a metal structure. Though companies manufacturing metal buildings often tout that metal does not burn as one of the advantages over wood the problem is that at high enough temperature metal beams will lose structural integrity much faster than wood. They will melt, bend, and break causing a very rapid and catastrophic collapse of a ceiling or floor. This is what happened to the WTC on 9/11; the intense fire from the burning fuel very quickly destroyed the ability of the steel beams on the burning floors to support the weight of the structure above them, causing the collapse of the entire building.

Think about how many times in your own community you’ve seen a photo or video of a fire at a metal building and when it is over it is just a pile of molten and bent metal laying on a concrete pad. Yet, there may have been a fire at a one or two story home - and maybe the people inside died - but when you see the house, even though it has soot around the windows and maybe is missing some parts of the structure, for the most part it is still standing. Build essentially the same building of both metal and wood, side by side, and start the same fire in each, and every time the wood building will still be standing when the metal one has collapsed.

Someone else on here may be able to discuss reinforced concrete structures, I have no idea how they behave in a fire. I am neither a structural engineer nor an architect but in choosing a structure to live in i would take the wood frame over a metal frame any time, at least for a house or apartment. I’ve seen in the north suburbs of Atlanta some recent large multi-story condos under construction, 5 or 6 stores maybe, that are entirely wood frame. I would not hesitate to live in one. I would expect due to load bearing requirements there may be a limit to how tall a wood structure could be; I had no idea someone would propose building one this tall. After all, skyscrapers did not appear in the late 19th century until steel frames for buildings were developed.

As someone mentioned earlier, modern engineered woods can do amazing things. For a while my former employer test marketed acetylated wood, made by taking normal wood boards and beams and treating them in a reactor with acetic anhydride under pressure. Although it would still burn, it was nearly indestructible otherwise, completely impervious to water and insects. It would never rot or warp and once painted or stained could go years without having to be re-finished.

I think a wooden building like this would be pretty cool.

lgv said...

" wonder what the place smells like? It's all wooden inside. You'd think it would smell like a lumberyard. For how long? And what would it smell like burning? Possibly very pleasant."

If you left it unfinished, it might smell like a lumberyard, but that's not going to happen. This would is laminated and then finished. These aren't pieces freshly cut from pine.

It's not going to burn easily either and will have the wonderful fragrance of the glue that used to laminate the sheets.

It will come down to cost. Like SIPs, the savings side of the equation vs. standard materials, is always somewhat elusive. The marginal cost of using the wood will end up be huge for such a large project.

Clyde said...

Firetrap?

mockturtle said...

'Hideous' wasn't an option.

wildswan said...

From the description and comments this treated wood is like very strong, fireproof plywood. That isn't exactly what I mean by "I like wood in buildings." I like seeing the grain and different woods have different grains and it doesn't look as if that is happening with this "wood". Perhaps I don't really understand the material. As I see it, it looks like houses we made of popsicle-sticks when I was eight and some kids/ fathers got carried away and fretted out designs on the popsicle-stick-house sides. One of these kids grew up and became an architect.

JAORE said...

"Someone else on here may be able to discuss reinforced concrete structures, I have no idea how they behave in a fire."

I was once sent to inspect a rather old reinforced concrete bridge in rural Alabama. A load of jet fuel overturned on the bridge and burned for quite some time. The bridge had to be replaced. The upper layer of reinforcing steel had expanded to the point where it de-bonded from the concrete. (Very scientific study. We hit the deck with hammers. Where the concrete was sound the metal "rang". Where it was not, "Thud".) But the bridge still stood and looked relatively unaffected. I crossed it in my vehicle with no hesitation (AFTER the inspection). But we did not find it safe for loaded trucks.

A similar accident took place at a steel bridge in Birmingham, Alabama. The beams sagged nearly to ground level. Totally worthless, of course.

wildswan said...

Oh I see the inside has grain. But it is cut to fit numbers so you don't see grain, you see numbers and it still is horrible.

Steve in Toronto said...

I did my master’s thesis at University of Toronto on "Tall Timber" and I can assure you that these buildings are very safe in a fire (the first inch or so of the structure will char and then act as fire retardent). I am not keen on the design but that might just be jealousy that no one has yet asked me to design a tower for them. As an aside these building systems are very “ecofriendly”.

readering said...

How do suction cups work on wood?