New Arup report advocates use of timber to help tackle climate change

The ‘HAUT’ timber residential tower in Amsterdam, the tallest timber hybrid tower in the Netherlands.

Arup has launched its Rethinking Timber Buildings report aimed at accelerating the construction industry’s response to reducing global emissions and achieving net zero carbon buildings by using sustainable materials. 

The report, which highlights the time and efficiency savings that can result from the use of mass timber as a sustainable and safe alternative to more commonly used materials, says that architects, developers, planners and corporate organisations should consider mass timber when designing low and mid-rise buildings.  

The move could form a vital step towards tackling some of the challenges that the construction industry faces when designing and building cities amid rapid levels of urbanisation and human population growth. 

The report highlights the key considerations in timber construction including:

  • Sustainable and zero-carbon – the use of timber could significantly reduce the carbon footprint of buildings and contribute to limiting the carbon emission contributions of the wider construction industry.
  • Faster and quieter – the use of timber is well-suited to construction in dense urban environments. It is lightweight enabling less road deliveries and is also quiet and quick to assemble. This can help reduce construction noise, time and disruption. 
  • Reduced waste - timber produces less waste because it can be prefabricated off site. New digital fabrication technologies enable timber buildings to be constructed very efficiently.
  • Mass timber is also attractive and can often be left visually exposed, reducing the time and cost of applying finishes. 
  • Fire safety – robust fire safety can be achieved where timber is considered as part of a holistic fire strategy and is supported by tested, certified, and coordinated detailing throughout the design and construction process.

In dense urban areas such as inner-city locations, the lower levels of disruption from timber construction could provide welcome relief for councils, contractors, local residents and businesses, all of whom are faced with the challenges of increasing building capacity whilst maintaining environments for communities to thrive in. 

Andrew Lawrence, timber specialist at Arup, said: “Timber is our only 100% renewable building material. It grows with free solar energy and as it grows it soaks up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. New technology means that a timber building can now be assembled incredibly fast, making it a viable option for an increasing number of projects. We know that more can be done to embed sustainable practices into design and construction and our approach can help both our clients and Arup to deliver on this.”

Click here to download the Rethinking Timber Buildings report.

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