Author: Chris Philpot
If you were told that wood could be used to build skyscrapers would you think it was crazy! Well, it's true - a new type of engineered wood, called cross-laminated timber (CLT) has the ability to replace concrete and steel providing a whole range of benefits.
CLT has been described as ‘plywood on steroids'. It comes prefabricated as large panels that can be up to 15 metres long, by 4 metres high and 50cm thick. The exciting part about using wood for building is that half its weight is carbon. In other words, the building stores carbon that would otherwise be up in the atmosphere contributing to climate change. It is also quick to build with, quiet and clean on site and project cost comparable.
As of May 2015, Forté is the tallest timber apartment building in the world - at 32.17 metres tall. By using Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), Forté, reduces CO2 equivalent emissions by more than 1,400 tonnes when compared to concrete and steel - the equivalent of removing 345 cars from the roads.
Up until recently supplies of CLT have been shipped across the world from a manufacturing plant in Austria. The great news now is that a small producer of CLT just across the Tasman (XLam) is expanding production both in New Zealand and into Australia to meet increasing market demands.
In New Zealand, CLT is already being prefabricated for a backpacker hostel in Christchurch, a studio in Nelson and a residential block of apartments in Salisbury Street, Christchurch. XLam's announcement means we will soon have an increased supply of CLT in Australia too leading the way to more timber buildings storing carbon, in turn helping to tackle climate change.
This is great news for the environmental movement, the building industry and forestry.