There is a growing trend towards using mass engineered timber (MET) for commercial as well as residential buildings, including high-rise, as a highly sustainable material that is good for the environment as well as the health and wellbeing of occupants. Using timber as a major construction material achieves a lower carbon footprint and enables a sense of wellbeing through biophilic design, that is, increasing occupant connectivity to the natural environment.
However, myths still exist about timber’s inherent benefits. In this video, Aurecon busts the myths on timber buildings:
Myth 1 – Timber isn’t fire resistant – one of the key properties of massive timber is that it is difficult to ignite and will char in a fire but leave sound timber underneath. It also burns at a predictable rate, allowing for the design of timber for a given fire event.
Myth 2 – Timber buildings aren’t termite resistant – large timber buildings are usually constructed on a concrete podium to create separation from the ground and no concealed entries to allow termites to enter. Timber can also be treated against insect attack and this is a key part of any strategy, and is in fact mandatory in some parts of the world.
Myth 3 – Timber isn’t sustainable – timber has a lower carbon footprint than traditional building materials. Trees actively sequester carbon from the atmosphere while growing, and when they are cut down for use as building materials, the carbon is ‘trapped’, unable to escape into the atmosphere as carbon emissions. Mass engineered timber can and should be sourced from sustainably-managed forests.
Myth 4 – Timber isn’t structurally sound – when the natural shrinkage and expansion of timber is appropriately considered in the design, timber performs well as a structural system. Where buildings are designed with timber cores (usually the main lateral load resisting system), diagonal timber bracing can be implemented to resist lateral loads while also providing an architectural feature.