Nowadays, the main building materials used in the construction industry are concrete, steel, and timber. For environmental sustainability, there are four important differences between these three materials:
As 36% of total carbon emissions in Europe over the last decade come from the construction industry, as well as 39% of total carbon emissions in the United States. Due to these data, the importance of government regulations in the future, such as measurements against global warming, should be a priority in every country. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and the level of carbon emissions in highly developed economies around the world are problematic issues. They need to be addressed urgently to avoid bigger, more frequent climate catastrophes in the future. In several EU countries, where the use of renewable building materials in buildings is encouraged, it shows the direction in which the construction sector should be directed around the world. And if these measures are adopted throughout the EU and beyond, there will be significantly more prefabricated wooden buildings in cities.
Although the use of wood is one of the most effective mechanisms for reducing CO2 emissions in construction, other considerations for different scales of the built environment must be taken into account. Urban density, for example, is directly related to carbon emissions. The fact is those dense cities are significantly more resilient. Therefore, one way to tackle climate change may be to plan and regulate compact wooden cities.
But the dense city necessarily requires the construction of tall buildings. Wood is traditionally used in small buildings where structural requirements are lower. In the past, the durability of wood has been a problem. Mainly due to the decomposition of the wood under the influence of moisture or fire. Fortunately, new wood-based products already exist. They are structurally much stronger and last for longer periods without any complications from moisture and fire. These products and rapidly evolving technologies now allow us to build tall buildings with wooden structures. Thus, timber has become a viable and convenient alternative to traditional building materials, such as concrete and steel. Wood technology will continue to evolve and facilitate the construction of wooden skyscrapers in the future.
Material innovations and new technologies have significantly increased the durability of timber. However, there are still people who claim that steel and concrete are much more durable and therefore more durable. However, the difficulty of reusing these materials is a problem. Nowadays, cities are very dynamic and constantly changing. Therefore, the average lifespan of a building is not as long as it was in the past.
A survey of residential buildings in the United Kingdom shows that 46% of the demolished structures were between 11 and 32 years old at the time of their demolition. The same study shows that in Japan, the typical lifespan of an office building is between 23 and 41 years. Data are similar in other countries around the world. Under the current circumstances, steel and concrete buildings are constantly producing waste - demolished buildings. This means that their long-lasting properties are a disadvantage in light of the "early" destruction of a significant part of the built environment. On the other hand, wood is a material that can be easily used or recycled. It can even be used as a fuel at the end of its operation for construction purposes. This energy can be used to heat other wooden buildings. In this way, the wood can easily be converted to a carbon-neutral material.
Tall timber buildings will need to develop new structural systems. New structural systems are beginning to use a variety of wood products for the various functions that structural systems need. The skyscraper is a very complex structure. In the future, structural systems are likely to be mixed, but they should always use as much timber as possible and reduce the amount of steel and concrete.