Sumitomo Forestry Co. recently released a plan to build the tallest wooden high-rise in the world. At a height of 350 meters and comprised of 90% wood, the building has been dubbed the W350.
The architectural designs feature plentiful greenery and aim to create a sense of biodiversity in an urban setting with natural elements such as sunlight, foliage, and open air. The 70-story high-rise is intended to be used by stores, hotels, and offices, as well as for private homes. Construction for the “plyscraper” is planned for Tokyo in 2041 to commemorate the company’s 350th anniversary.
The concept for the building is based on Sumitomo Forestry’s research and development facility, the Tsukuba Research Institute. The company hopes to turn cities into forests, and states that, “The aim is to create an environmentally-friendly and timber-utilizing cities.” In order to do so, the company maintains a principle of “sustainable forestry” and promotes forest regeneration and regulation.
The W350 will be a hybrid of mostly wood and steel. Because Japan is prone to earthquakes, it will use a “braced tube structure” for vibration control. Wood also presents problems with both fire and moisture — problems which Sumitomo Forestry addressed in its plan only by saying, “We will make every effort to further enhance fire and seismic resistance as well as durability.” Cost is another major concern, as the current estimate of 185,000 cubic meters of timber would cost about 600 billion Japanese yen or 5.6 billion dollars (on a building area of 6,500sqm and an architectural area of 455,000sqm). This is twice the amount of a conventional high-rise.
Wooden cities offer a bright future
So, if it’s so expensive, why is it worth it? The potential that wooden cities or plyscrapers offer is great. Wood is more environmentally friendly than other building materials, such as concrete or steel, because trees absorb and retain carbon. In comparison, concrete is a material that results in a huge amount of CO2 emissions during production. Sumitomo Forestry states, “The use of wooden architecture for high-rise buildings results in increased carbon fixation and expanded demand for timber. The regeneration of forestry can revitalize local communities and create timber-utilizing cities that offer a comfortable environment.”
Another reason for using wood is to utilize and protect domestic resources. Two thirds of Japan is currently covered in forest, but only 30% of it is currently being used and the forests are at risk of not being maintained properly, according to the company.
And as far as the costs go? The more wood is used as a building material, the more feasible future projects will be.
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