Wood-frame construction goes back thousands of years. But as buildings gradually became taller and larger, more robust materials—like steel and concrete—came to dominate modern architecture. While steel and concrete are strong, they also come with a huge carbon footprint. Good news: timber is making a comeback.
Wood has been praised for its environmental creds (if ethically farmed, not tropical hardwoods, of course), better fire resistance and thermal properties compared to steel and concrete, and versatility. A 2011 study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended that wood become the primary material in green buildings and argues that the material “provides substantial environmental benefits, provides incentives for private landowners to maintain forest land, and provides a critical source of jobs in rural America.”
Architects have been experimenting with the material in some high-profile projects in recent years, ranging from a 10-story condo in New York by SHoP to a 34-story skyscraper in Stockholm by C.F. Møller Architects. While these impressive structures are a few years away from completion, the Wood Products Council has named the nine best timber buildings of 2016 that embody adventurous design and engineering.
The projects range in type, scale, and location. With its charred exterior and sculptural interior vaults, Hennebery Eddy Architects’s Fire Station 76, located in Oregon, is a gorgeous example. So is China’s pavilion for the 2015 Milan Expo, which boasts an undulating roof clad in perforated bamboo shingles.
Ultramoderne’s pavilion for the Chicago Biennial received recognition for its use of cross-laminated timber roof panels—the largest shippable panels available—and glue-laminated timber columns, which helped the design stay within its $75,000 construction budget. (Never mind that it kind of looks like a shoddy, generic rest stop in person.)
As a whole, the roster of award winners shows just how creative architects can get with the material both from an aesthetic and structural standpoint. Moral of the story? Wood is good. Spy more stand-outs in the slide show above.
All Images: via Wood Products Council