Until about your grandparents’ childhood—or maybe your great-grandparents’—the world was made of wood. Everything from weapons and wheels, barrels and houses, tools for cooking and industry, was at least in part derived from materials taken from the bodies of trees. People were born in oak beds and rocked in poplar cradles and killed by walnut-stock rifles and buried in pine coffins.
Now a growing industry wants to bring back the golden age of wood starting with skyscrapers. “Look at this,” Antti Asikainen, an austere, affable Finnish forestry professor, says admiringly, pointing to a rectangular hole cut in the sheetrock of a 12-story apartment building, exposing the skeleton below.’
The frame inside is made of mass timber, a high-density wood product that is one of the new range of high-tech products the global economy relies upon forests to fill. Mass timber has a particular utopian appeal among a certain set of architects and designers, and its supporters predict that the cities of the future will be all-wood high-rises like the one Asikainen and I are standing in above the eastern Finland university town of Joensuu, which spreads like a carpet along the canals of the Pielisjoki River.
Below us, the landscape bears the fruits of a style of forestry calibrated to reliably turn out the most trees possible. Piles of mostly spruce stacked in the rail yard stretch to the horizon. The day before, Asikainen says, the river and canals had been full of an enormous float of spruce logs on their way down from North Karelia or the Russian boreal forests, bound for markets beyond the Baltic Sea.
If all new-model wood products have their acolytes, proponents of mass timber speak of it with a particularly evangelical zeal, because they see it as not only a chance to decarbonize the construction sector, but also a significant technical upgrade in its own right. (See what cities of the future could look like.)
All of those products, from the paper fluff in diapers to the bones of skyscrapers, rest on a possible irresolvable contradiction: They all rely on the steady, controlled growth of trees, with harvests generally planned out decades in advance. For the past hundred years, that system of so-called scientific forestry, which grew up to counter the seemingly unstoppable deforestation of late 19th and early 20th-century Europe, has provided the wood products that a growing population requires.
That system, however, depends on something that is disappearing: a steady climate and forests that remain where they’ve been, a paradigm threatened by the very climate crisis that makes carbon-sucking buildings seem appealing.
Tall buildings, made of wood
The Jonesuu apartment building is a case in point. Virtually anyplace else in the world, that exposed skeleton would be concrete reinforced with steel. Here in Finland it’s wood: In fact, save for a two-inch concrete slab between each floor, the whole building is made of wood. Specifically, one of the high-tech, engineered materials collectively called mass timber or structural timber.
That makes this building, according to Asikainen , the executive vice president of the Forest Research Institute at the University of Eastern Finland, the tallest all-wood building in the world.
Credits To https://www.nationalgeographic.com/