Shiver me timbers: Architects propose plans for London's first wooden skyscraper

Kasmira Jefford
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The tooth-pick like tower would be 80 storeys tall (Source: The University of Cambridge)

Forget steel and concrete. Wood is poised to take over as the construction material of the 21st century according to architects at the University of Cambridge and PLP Architecture, who have revealed plans for what London's first timber skyscraper could look like.

Researchers at the university will today present London mayor Boris Johnson with conceptual plans for a 300-metre high wooden building integrated within the Barbican – which if built would make it the second tallest building behind the Shard.

To put this into context, the world’s tallest timber building is currently a 14-storey apartment block in Bergen, Norway. The tower being proposed by these forward-thinking architects would be 80-storeys high.

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The tooth pick-like tower, which is purely conceptual, would comprise of 1,000 homes and use a type of wood regarded as a "crop", which the researchers said is currently expanding. Canada alone could produce enough crop forest over the next 70 years to house around a billion people.‚Äč

Cambridge University is working on the designs with PLP – the firm behind City skyscraper scheme 22 Bishopsgate – and engineers Smith and Wallwork as part of research on the future of tall timber buildings in the capital.

It is the first in a series of timber skyscrapers being developed in collaboration with well-known architects and structural engineers with funding from the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Dr Michael Ramage, Director of Cambridge’s Centre for Natural Material Innovation, said:“If London is going to survive it needs to increasingly densify. One way is taller buildings."

"We believe people have a greater affinity for taller buildings in natural materials rather than steel and concrete towers. The fundamental premise is that timber and other natural materials are vastly underused and we don’t give them nearly enough credit. Nearly every historic building, from King’s College Chapel to Westminster Hall, has made extensive use of timber.”

Read More: Meet London's new timber homes

He people's main concern with wood is the fire risk but dispelled these fears, saying that the proposed building would eventually meet or exceed every existing fire regulation currently in place for steel and concrete buildings.

Simon Smith of Smith and Wallwork engineers said: “Timber is our only renewable construction material and in its modern engineered form it can work alongside steel and concrete to extend and regenerate our cities. It is only a matter of time until the first timber skyscraper is built”.

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