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The birth of the Plyscraper

May 22, 2018

The birth of the Plyscraper

It won’t come as a huge surprise to learn that the world’s tallest skyscraper will be built in Tokyo.  A city synonymous with skyscrapers.  If, like me, the idea of a wooden skyscraper - or should we call it a plyscraper, seems like a recipe for disaster – read on!

Dubbed the W350 it will be 350 meters tall with 90 percent of the building made of wood.  Japanese company Sumitomo Forestry aims to create environmentally-friendly, timber-utilising cities which “become forests through increased use of wooden architecture for high-rise buildings”. 

 

See image below

Sumitomo Forestry

 

There has been a marked increase in the number of such proposed buildings across the globe.  It’s hard to tell if this is a response to the environmental impact of producing steel and concrete or the escalating costs associated with such materials.  Yet building with wood is not cheap.  In fact, the proposed cost of building this particular wooden wonder is approximately twice that of a conventional high-rise building.

 

That said, many believe that the cost of timber will reduce as it becomes the go-to material of the future.  And why do they think this is the case?  In a city susceptible to earthquakes and with the added risk of fire causing such concern to a high-rise building – what on earth makes them think this could be a good idea?

 

The answer is simple.  Science. 

 

Scientists at the University of Maryland have developed a way to make wood that is so strong it could replace steel (it can even stop bullets).  This ‘super wood’ is reportedly 10 times stronger and tougher than normal wood.

 

How have they done this?  The key is the chemical treatment they have produced combined with a heated compression process.  The resulting bonds make the wood strong enough to be used in buildings and even vehicles.  Perhaps it could even replace armour plating.   It’s 10 times stronger than natural wood and 10 times tougher.   There is talk that it could even compete with titanium alloys.

 

Not only is it stronger, it’s also significantly lighter than steel, thereby saving a vast amount on shipping.  It also, quite literally, grows on trees.  At the beginning of the process it can be bent and moulded and has been shown to work on several varieties of wood. 

This ‘super wood’ is not only tough, strong and light but it’s also scratch resistant, extremely dense and resistant to compression.  Who knows, perhaps it will be beautiful too.

This material almost sounds too good to be true.  The future is bright.  The future is wood.

Article by Georgina O'Neil

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