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Supertall Timber: impossibly high wooden skyscrapers

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Timber has exceptional properties for building, many of which have been overlooked in the past century. New research on engineered timber offers the possibility of wooden skyscrapers, the first generation of which are being realized in cities as diverse as London, Melbourne, Bergen, and Vancouver. Through a combination of theoretical design and physical testing, our research demonstrates the viability of timber buildings at much greater heights than has previously been possible. By pushing the limits of theoretical designs into the realms of the supertall, and sometimes beyond that which is feasible using current materials and construction technologies, our research also sets out the requirements for the next generation of engineered plant-based materials. Research, design and construction of contemporary large-scale timber buildings furthers the architectural and structural engineering knowledge necessary to make tall timber buildings a reality. Natural materials in taller and larger buildings substitute for steel and concrete, reducing the carbon emissions associated with them.

As a collaboration between academics, practicing architects and practicing structural engineers, our research is underpinned by a vision for a sustainable future in which natural materials play a greater role in the construction of the built environment. The fundamental premise is that innovative approaches to research, processing, modification and design of natural materials can increase their role in constructing a better future. Throughout history, timber and other plant-based materials have played a major role in domestic construction. In many parts of the world they still do. However, as the global population urbanizes, people are living more densely, often in taller buildings. We explore ways to design and build such tall buildings more naturally.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Philosophical Society series.

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