2011-04-21

Construction: Wood chucks old image

For all of modern history, we have relied on steel and concrete in the construction of multi-storey buildings, because both materials are sturdy, reliable and cheap. Michael Green, a principal at MGB Architecture in Vancouver, argues there is another option: wood. "When I say that, people's jaws drop," he says. "They think I'm crazy."

Green has been working on a report for the past few months to demonstrate the feasibility of replacing concrete and steel with timber in the construction of highrises. The full report, due out in the coming weeks, will show it is possible to build up to 30 storeys using timber.

The report is sponsored and currently under review by the Wood Enterprise Coalition, an industry association established by the British Columbia government last year with $1.75 million in funding. The interest from both government and industry in the concept is largely economic. The forestry sector has been in decline for years, and any new use for wood (particularly the 15-million hectares of trees killed by the mountain pine beetle in the province) could mean salvation.