Timber Structures: Does Wood Cut It?

Words by Tony Whitehead

Treet apartment block in Bergen, Norway by the water- Exterior view facade
The 49m-high Treet apartment block in Bergen, Norway, was completed in 2015 and is one of the tallest CLT structures in the world

The pros and cons of CLT structures

+ Lighter structures save on foundations

+ Quick and easy to handle on site

+ Suitable for extending existing buildings within minimal modification

+ Smaller carbon footprint than steel or concrete

+ Sequesters carbon

+ Performs well in earthquakes

+ Structural performance is increasingly predictable

+ Locally available in many world regions

+ A popular “eco-aesthetic”

+ Easily prefabricated and well-suited to
modular construction

It may be necessary to add mass to help with
thermal performance

… and acoustic performance

Requires a reliable and sustainable source

rare outside Europe and North America

Not as carbon-friendly as might first appear

Yet to be proven above 18 storeys

The structure must be kept dry to prevent rot

Clients are sceptical of performance in fire

Shortage of design and construction expertise

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