105-storey hybrid timber prototype unveiled

Friday 18 Dec 2020

Thanks to a patent-pending hybrid timber floor system developed by the architectural firm Dialog, it is now possible for mass timber structures to enter the supertall division of high-rise construction.

How tall? One hundred and five storeys, or 460 metres high, says Craig Applegath, founding principal at Dialog. He led a dozen designers from his firm and a team of collaborators from EllisDon, RWDI and Pond Tech to create a zero-carbon hybrid timber tower prototype.

“The most important thing is not its height, the most important thing is to demonstrate clearly that you can use mass timber in a very tall building and just as importantly that you can have a zero-carbon tall building,” Applegath explained recently.

The idea for the project came two years ago when a group of partners at Dialog were brainstorming during a company retreat. Applegath is chair of the Mass Timber Institute and the firm is a supporter of Community Forests International, which advocates for sustainable harvesting of trees.

The partners were noting that timber in cross-laminated timber (CLT) and other forms is suitable for residential construction but at greater heights it’s problematic because if used for the frame of a building, more and more has to be used to ensure structural adequacy.

As well, given that the maximum length the product can be used at is around 30 feet, it can’t be used for commercial structures that require 40-foot floor plates. “Wood is not good under compression for height. It is like a waste of wood and it is very expensive per square foot, so it becomes a vanity project,” Applegath said of taller builds.

“So, we said, this is nuts, we have to develop something that is absolutely feasible within our current time frame.” Given that floor plates, as opposed to exterior exoskeletons and interior vertical support systems, take up to 70 per cent of the material in a building, the Dialog partners were determined to find a way to use mostly timber in a new product for floor plates that could be developed to span 40 feet. The other two systems could be concrete and/or steel.

The hybrid system that was developed includes a combination of wood, concrete and steel and offers open spans and fire safety so it can be integrated into any building typology.

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