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SOM research project examines viability of timber-framed skyscraper

Project could have a carbon footprint up to 75% less, on a square-foot basis, than that of a concrete-framed structure.

June 04, 2013 |
The Timber Tower, @SOM

In a report released today, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill discussed the results of the Timber Tower Research Project: an examination of whether a viable 400-ft, 42-story building could be created with timber framing. The prototype created by SOM incolves a combination of mass timber, concrete, and steel and was sponsored by the Softwood Lumber Board. Benchmarked against Chicago's DeWitt Chestnut Apartments—a concrete-framed facility considered revolutionary when SOM designed it in 1965—the Timber Tower represents a carbon-footprint reduction of 65% to 75%.

Tall buildings that embody conventional concrete and steel structural design usually have a higher carbon footprint than low-rise buildings, on a square-foot basis. SOM's experiment explores whether tall wood-framed buildings are feasible, justfying changes in contemporary building codes that generally limit the height of such buildings. "Building tall creates desirable urban density, but this solution helps us achieve this result with a much smaller carbon footprint," says SOM Structural and Civil Engineering Partner William F. Baker, PE, Se, FASCE, FIStructE.

SOM staff predict further developments, including possible building code adjustments, based on the research.


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