Rivendell Redux:  Wooden Skyscrapers are a Thing Now

February 25, 2021

It’s a cool scene in The Fellowship of the Ring when the company rolls into the Elven city of Rivendell, which has beautiful, towering wooden structures that meld into the green of the forest.  This contrasts with the squat igloo-like homes of the Shire.  Sorry if that’s too much nerding out.

But we have a point to make.  According to the UN, 68% of the global population will live in cities, up from around half today.

And we all know global warming is a big problem – steel and concrete production, two of the most common building materials, accounts for about 8% of CO2 emissions worldwide.

The solution, per an article in the Economist:  the wooden skyscraper. Yep, you read that right.

The Scandinavians are already building them – they have the current record for the world’s tallest wooden building with the 85-meter-tall Mjostarnet building in Norway (that’s the pic above), which was built in 2019.

Now, Chicago wants the crown with a proposed structure called the River Beech Tower, a 228-meter building which is set to be built near the Chicago river.

Rebuttals to wooden skyscrapers

Are there enough trees to scale this across many cities?  Answer:  Dr. Michael Ramage of the University of Cambridge, an environmental expert sats yes, with sustainably managed forests

What about the risk of fire?  Answer:  According to a report by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, large structural timbers are fire resistant because their inner cores are protected by a charring layer if burnt.

Hmm, that seems to check some of the boxes, but what about cost comparisons?  That was left out of the article and requires a bit more research, but who can put a price on Rivendell?

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