The Dawning of the Timber Age: Wood Will Overtake Steel & Concrete in Architecture

high rise wood 2

“This is the beginning of the timber age,” says architect Andrew Waugh, head of a British firm currently building a London housing development that’ll use more timber than any other project in the world, and he’s far from the only industry expert to say so in recent months. As wood’s beauty, value and sustainability is embraced for large-scale projects around the world, more and more architects are taking notice and following suit.

Not only has there been an aesthetic shift in modern architecture that’s moving away from cold materials toward a warmer and more welcoming atmosphere, but innovations in engineered timber are making it possible to build skyscrapers almost entirely made of wood. Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is created by layering three, five or seven timber sections at right angles and glueing them together to make them extremely durable, yet far lighter than steel or concrete.

wood construction biennial

These factors combined have some predicting that wood will overtake concrete and steel as the most popular building material of the 21st century. There’s been a significant surge in multi-story timber projects, including an eight-story apartment building in Finland (pictured top) credited as one of the first high-rise examples of CLT construction in the world. Chicago recently chose timber for its Lakefront Kiosk at the Chicago Architecture Biennial, and Australia is the latest nation to change its building codes so architects can build tall timber-framed structures.