Rather than using steel and concrete to build, some tech companies want to re use wood to minimize carbon emissions. Microsoft, for instance, is using timber as it renovates its Silicon Valley campus, and expects a carbon savings of more than 20%. The development arm of Google plans to build an entire neighborhood in Toronto out of wood. It expects to set world records with timber structures 30 stories high, provided regulators are convinced the buildings are safe. The revival of wood began in early nineties. So in recent times, pieces of wood have been used by design in alternating directions. The pieces, more like the Jenga game, could be glued together and strong enough for major buildings. The technique, called cross-laminated timber, is so new to the United States, that environmental groups are only starting to take note and endorse it. Most scientific studies have concluded that wood construction has fewer emissions than conventional construction. However, there has been a wide range of results and researchers have called for more analysis. Businesses focused on wood buildings are springing up around the country, and lumber companies in Montana and Oregon are already making cross-laminated timber.
These timber factories shape wood pieces in a clean, controlled environment, allowing for greater precision than building on-site.
By the time the wood arrives at the building site, little additional work is required. Wooden panels are connected with a screw gun. But the material doesn’t come without risks, such as fires. Wood building advocates say the new timber, which is glued together, is safer than traditional wood and comparable to concrete and steel for fire safety. A Swedish study of timber buildings found they had fewer fires than traditional buildings. But some insurance companies are reluctant to insure timber buildings given concerns about water damage. The popularity of wood buildings could also be dangerous for forests. Tina Schneider, manager of the forest legality initiative at the World Resources Institute, cautions that builders must closely monitor their supply chain. Illegal logging is common worldwide.