Sumitomo said its goal for the building is to show how cities might be transformed from artificial environments into a forest-like environment that is "a pleasant space for the people living there."
John Fernandez, a professor of architecture at MIT, understands that rationale. "Timber buildings are very easy to associate with and fall in love with and appreciate because the material itself appeals to people," he said. "Buildings that people really appreciate, value and feel something for are more sustainable than otherwise because people will protect them and take care of them."
Another goal for the building is to showcase the versatility of wood. Though wood has long been used as a building material, only recently have new forms of wood made it possible to build tall buildings out of wood.
“There’s a whole bunch of new materials made out of wood that are structurally able to build big buildings,” Dr. Michael Ramage, a senior lecturer and head of Cambridge University’s Center for Natural Material Innovation, told CNN.
One such material, cross-laminated timber (CLT), is said to be stronger than concrete and more fire-resistant than conventional wooden building materials.
Perhaps paradoxically, experts say that building with wood can be more sustainable than building with steel and concrete. Wood stores carbon that otherwise might wind up in the atmosphere as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, whereas the production of concrete and steel releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
“Buildings have a very long lifetime, especially large buildings,” Fernandez said. “So if we can store that carbon for 100 years, that’s extremely positive, and the storage itself doesn’t require energy.”
And while building a tower the size of W350 requires the toppling of more than a few trees, “the amount of wood used in this building can be regrown in our global forests within a matter of hours,” Casey Malmquist, founder of SmartLam, a CLT manufacturer in Columbia Falls, Montana, told NBC News MACH in an email.
“Sustainability is the key to our survival on this planet,” he added, “and by utilizing wood as a renewable and sustainable building material, we are taking a significant step in the right direction to a brighter future.”
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