In architecture, wood is now on the cutting edge

John Bentley Mays – Special to The Globe and Mail – Published Wednesday, Aug. 15 2012, 11:06 AM EDT

 At first, it can seem like the fantasy of an overwrought tree-hugger. A tall building with a structural frame fashioned from wood?

 If this is indeed a dream, it may be about to come true in British Columbia. In the northern B.C. town of Prince George, for example, the provincial government plans to raise a ten-storey tower intended to demonstrate the viability of using forest products to do the job of heavy lifting monopolized, until now, by steel and concrete.

 And last spring, Vancouver architect Michael Green (a key Canadian student and promoter of new wood applications) unveiled a scheme for a 30-storey tower held aloft by a timber frame. Mr. Green is convinced that putting up a safe, sturdy large building of this kind in Vancouver is now possible, given recent advances in the fabrication of very strong wooden structural members. And he believes that doing so is also ecologically desirable: Trees, at least in Canada, are resources that are almost infinitely renewable.

 Interest in these engaging matters is hardly limited to B.C.

 Over the next several months, the three principals in the Toronto-based office of Williamson Chong Architects (WCA) will be travelling in Europe and Asia to scout out what leading-edge researchers, manufacturers and designers abroad are doing with wood. [Read more]