December 16, 2014

Wooden Skyscrapers in the Works

In an effort to find environmentally friendly alternatives to steel and concrete, some architects are turning to wood as their building material of choice.

As noted in a recent NPR article, “wood has long been considered too weak for high rises — not to mention a towering inferno just waiting to ignite.” Architects and biochemists are working to solve these shortcomings. According to the article, researchers are studying wood at the cellular level to see how it could be strengthened. The article also explains that the flammability of tall wooden buildings is actually a misconception. Unlike small homes, massive structures are not flammable “because the surface of timber burns and chars just enough to provide a good insulator that protects the interior.”

Researchers are also trying to improve concrete by studying it at the molecular level. An MIT professor is examining how to make concrete more resilient while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by changing the ratios of concrete’s ingredients. He and his team hope their efforts were result in a stronger, greener building material.