Why wood is back at the top of the tree for architects

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Strong, clean and versatile, engineered timber is the ‘new concrete’. With wooden skyscrapers in the offing, could it be the answer to the global housing crisis? 

Michael Green’s T3 in Minneapolis.
Wood’s mainstream moment? Michael Green’s T3 in Minneapolis. Photograph: Ema Peter/MGA

A miracle building material

There is a miracle building material – one so environmentally friendly that it extracts carbon from the atmosphere rather than adding to it; a stuff with which structures can go up at lightning speeds, that reduces the noise and disruption of building sites, that can be as strong as steel and much lighter, that makes both construction workers and a building’s users happier, and that, with the help of technology, is getting ever more efficient and adaptable. “It’s the material of the future,” an architect tells me. Its most ardent proselytisers think it could fix the overcrowding of the world’s cities. At the same time, this stuff – wood – is so ancient that 18th-century theorists believed that Adam built the first house out of it in the Garden of Eden. Mild-mannered, unassuming timber has gone into a phone box and come out as a super-substance.

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