Tag Archives: construction

Timber buildings can help to slow global heating

Tomorrow’s town planners could take a leaf from nature’s book with timber buildings. More than a leaf: the whole tree and all the cuttings as well.

LONDON, 4 February, 2020 − European and US scientists have a root-and-branch answer to the challenge of tomorrow’s cities: switch to wood, construct timber buildings and reduce the risk of even more devastating global temperature rise.

Their reasoning is bold and simple: it takes energy to make steel and cement, which must be mined or quarried, a process that puts the remaining wilderness at risk.

Forests represent stored atmospheric carbon. If timber from the planet’s forests could be used to construct the houses and offices needed for the additional 2.3 billion urban dwellers expected by the year 2050, then that would mean that the great cities could become sinks or repositories of stored carbon.

And new trees could grow in the space left by the harvested timber to add to the world inventory of stored carbon. The new towns and cities could become a kind of bank vault in which to save up to 700 million tonnes of carbon a year that might otherwise have spilled into the atmosphere as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

“Since the beginning of the industrial revolution we have been releasing into the atmosphere all of this carbon that had been stored in forests and in the ground,” said Galina Churkina, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany.

“We wanted to show that there can be a vision for returning much of this carbon back into the land.”

Strong fire-resistance

Wood is a fuel. It burns well. Paradoxically tree trunks, and treated timber assembled from laminates, do not. Structural timbers may char in a fire, but this has been shown to make them more resistant to burning. Experiment and research has shown that buildings of engineered timber up to 18 stories in height can be resistant to fire.

In effect, atmospheric carbon, turned into high-strength wood fibre by photosynthesis, could be made as safe as reinforced concrete. But, according to a new study in the journal Nature Sustainability, in 2014 the making of cement spilled 1,320 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and steel manufacture added another 1,740 million tonnes.

And between 2005 and 2015, mining in Brazil alone was responsible for 9% of the loss of all Amazon forest land during that decade: the act of prospecting for or extracting mineral commodities destroyed 12 times more than the areas stipulated in the mining leases.

The Potsdam scientists are not the first to suggest wood as an alternative to bricks and mortar, or bamboo as a replacement for cement, steel and glass. But their analysis may be the most detailed so far of a new way to confront the challenge of tomorrow’s climate-tested cities.

The researchers built a series of scenarios to test their hypothesis. New city structures must be built to accommodate an additional million or more humans every week for the next three decades. The proportion now expected to be fashioned from timber is half of 1%.

“Trees offer us a technology of unparalleled perfection. If we engineer the wood into modern building materials we humans can build ourselves a safe home on Earth”

A five-storey house made from laminated timber could store 180 kilos of carbon a square meter: that is three times the biomass above ground in natural forests. If construction from wood was stepped up to 10%, new construction could store 10 million tonnes of carbon a year; if the world switched to 90% this figure could rise to almost 700 million tonnes.

“Trees offer us a technology of unparalleled perfection,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a co-author of the study and a founder director of the Potsdam Institute.

“They take CO2 out of our atmosphere and smoothly transform it into oxygen for us to breathe and carbon in their trunks for us to use. There’s no safer way of storing carbon I can think of.

“Societies have made good use of wood for buildings for many centuries, yet now the challenge of climate stabilisation calls for a very serious upscaling. If we engineer the wood into modern building materials and smartly manage harvest and construction, we humans can build ourselves a safe home on Earth.” − Climate News Network

Tomorrow’s town planners could take a leaf from nature’s book with timber buildings. More than a leaf: the whole tree and all the cuttings as well.

LONDON, 4 February, 2020 − European and US scientists have a root-and-branch answer to the challenge of tomorrow’s cities: switch to wood, construct timber buildings and reduce the risk of even more devastating global temperature rise.

Their reasoning is bold and simple: it takes energy to make steel and cement, which must be mined or quarried, a process that puts the remaining wilderness at risk.

Forests represent stored atmospheric carbon. If timber from the planet’s forests could be used to construct the houses and offices needed for the additional 2.3 billion urban dwellers expected by the year 2050, then that would mean that the great cities could become sinks or repositories of stored carbon.

And new trees could grow in the space left by the harvested timber to add to the world inventory of stored carbon. The new towns and cities could become a kind of bank vault in which to save up to 700 million tonnes of carbon a year that might otherwise have spilled into the atmosphere as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

“Since the beginning of the industrial revolution we have been releasing into the atmosphere all of this carbon that had been stored in forests and in the ground,” said Galina Churkina, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany.

“We wanted to show that there can be a vision for returning much of this carbon back into the land.”

Strong fire-resistance

Wood is a fuel. It burns well. Paradoxically tree trunks, and treated timber assembled from laminates, do not. Structural timbers may char in a fire, but this has been shown to make them more resistant to burning. Experiment and research has shown that buildings of engineered timber up to 18 stories in height can be resistant to fire.

In effect, atmospheric carbon, turned into high-strength wood fibre by photosynthesis, could be made as safe as reinforced concrete. But, according to a new study in the journal Nature Sustainability, in 2014 the making of cement spilled 1,320 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and steel manufacture added another 1,740 million tonnes.

And between 2005 and 2015, mining in Brazil alone was responsible for 9% of the loss of all Amazon forest land during that decade: the act of prospecting for or extracting mineral commodities destroyed 12 times more than the areas stipulated in the mining leases.

The Potsdam scientists are not the first to suggest wood as an alternative to bricks and mortar, or bamboo as a replacement for cement, steel and glass. But their analysis may be the most detailed so far of a new way to confront the challenge of tomorrow’s climate-tested cities.

The researchers built a series of scenarios to test their hypothesis. New city structures must be built to accommodate an additional million or more humans every week for the next three decades. The proportion now expected to be fashioned from timber is half of 1%.

“Trees offer us a technology of unparalleled perfection. If we engineer the wood into modern building materials we humans can build ourselves a safe home on Earth”

A five-storey house made from laminated timber could store 180 kilos of carbon a square meter: that is three times the biomass above ground in natural forests. If construction from wood was stepped up to 10%, new construction could store 10 million tonnes of carbon a year; if the world switched to 90% this figure could rise to almost 700 million tonnes.

“Trees offer us a technology of unparalleled perfection,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a co-author of the study and a founder director of the Potsdam Institute.

“They take CO2 out of our atmosphere and smoothly transform it into oxygen for us to breathe and carbon in their trunks for us to use. There’s no safer way of storing carbon I can think of.

“Societies have made good use of wood for buildings for many centuries, yet now the challenge of climate stabilisation calls for a very serious upscaling. If we engineer the wood into modern building materials and smartly manage harvest and construction, we humans can build ourselves a safe home on Earth.” − Climate News Network

Solar suburbia to power modern cities

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Urban sprawl may not be as bad for the environment as we thought – as long as every home is fitted with solar panels and electric cars become the norm. LONDON, 8 August – Modern planners are building compact cities, believing tightly controlled zones are better for the environment. New research suggests the opposite: urban sprawl might be a better option, with solar power fitted to suburban houses and the adoption of electric cars transforming the energy needs of a city. Research in Auckland, New Zealand – the largest urban area in the country and a city built for the age of the motor car – shows that solar panels fitted to the average suburban home can produce enough power for that household, extra to charge an electric vehicle, and still generate enough watts to export a surplus to the grid. Adopting a citywide approach to fitting solar panels and providing charging points for cars would enable suburban homes to provide most of the power for the city centre as well as keeping the transport running, according to Professor Hugh Byrd, from the School of Architecture at the University of Lincoln in England. In collaboration with the New Zealand Energy Centre and the University of Auckland, Byrd and his colleagues found that detached suburban houses typical of a motor car age city are capable of producing ten times more solar power than is possible from skyscrapers or other commercial buildings. The calculations are based on a detailed cross section of Auckland, which has skyscrapers in its business centre but has most of its homes spread out over the surrounding countryside in an urban sprawl. Transform planning Although every city is different, the pattern of building in Auckland is repeated in many cities around the globe. Byrd’s idea is that if planners insist solar panels be fitted to properties and charging points be provided for electric cars, then cities judged to be damaging to the environment could be transformed. “While a compact city may be more efficient for internal combustion engine vehicles, a dispersed city is more efficient when distributed generation of electricity by photovoltaic installations is the main energy source and electric vehicles are the principal mode of transport” says Byrd. “This research could have implications on the policies of both urban form and energy. Far from reacting by looking to re-build our cities, we need to embrace the dispersed suburban areas and smart new technologies that will enable us to power our cities in a cost-effective way, without relying on ever dwindling supplies of fossil fuels.   Sprawl is good “This study challenges conventional thinking that suburbia is energy-inefficient, a belief that has become enshrined in architectural policy. In fact, our results reverse the argument for a compact city based on transport energy use, and completely change the current perception of urban sprawl.” Byrd concedes that the only way his ideas will work is if planning policy made fitting solar panels obligatory. Planning would also need to require the installation of photovoltaic roofing, smart meters and appropriate charging facilities for vehicles as standard in every household. The advantages would be a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions, long term energy security, and a reduction in city pollution.  – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Urban sprawl may not be as bad for the environment as we thought – as long as every home is fitted with solar panels and electric cars become the norm. LONDON, 8 August – Modern planners are building compact cities, believing tightly controlled zones are better for the environment. New research suggests the opposite: urban sprawl might be a better option, with solar power fitted to suburban houses and the adoption of electric cars transforming the energy needs of a city. Research in Auckland, New Zealand – the largest urban area in the country and a city built for the age of the motor car – shows that solar panels fitted to the average suburban home can produce enough power for that household, extra to charge an electric vehicle, and still generate enough watts to export a surplus to the grid. Adopting a citywide approach to fitting solar panels and providing charging points for cars would enable suburban homes to provide most of the power for the city centre as well as keeping the transport running, according to Professor Hugh Byrd, from the School of Architecture at the University of Lincoln in England. In collaboration with the New Zealand Energy Centre and the University of Auckland, Byrd and his colleagues found that detached suburban houses typical of a motor car age city are capable of producing ten times more solar power than is possible from skyscrapers or other commercial buildings. The calculations are based on a detailed cross section of Auckland, which has skyscrapers in its business centre but has most of its homes spread out over the surrounding countryside in an urban sprawl. Transform planning Although every city is different, the pattern of building in Auckland is repeated in many cities around the globe. Byrd’s idea is that if planners insist solar panels be fitted to properties and charging points be provided for electric cars, then cities judged to be damaging to the environment could be transformed. “While a compact city may be more efficient for internal combustion engine vehicles, a dispersed city is more efficient when distributed generation of electricity by photovoltaic installations is the main energy source and electric vehicles are the principal mode of transport” says Byrd. “This research could have implications on the policies of both urban form and energy. Far from reacting by looking to re-build our cities, we need to embrace the dispersed suburban areas and smart new technologies that will enable us to power our cities in a cost-effective way, without relying on ever dwindling supplies of fossil fuels.   Sprawl is good “This study challenges conventional thinking that suburbia is energy-inefficient, a belief that has become enshrined in architectural policy. In fact, our results reverse the argument for a compact city based on transport energy use, and completely change the current perception of urban sprawl.” Byrd concedes that the only way his ideas will work is if planning policy made fitting solar panels obligatory. Planning would also need to require the installation of photovoltaic roofing, smart meters and appropriate charging facilities for vehicles as standard in every household. The advantages would be a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions, long term energy security, and a reduction in city pollution.  – Climate News Network