World’s Tallest Wooden Building to Be Built in Tokyo

Architects are increasingly touting wood as a cleaner alternative to steel, concrete and brick

Sumitomo Forestry Co
Sumitomo Forestry Co
Sumitomo Forestry Co
Sumitomo Forestry Co

Architects in Japan are hard at work on plans for an ambitious new project:  a 1,148- foot skyscraper, built almost entirely of wood. As Elle Hunt of the Guardian reports, the new building is not expected to be completed until 2041, but it will likely become the world’s tallest wooden structure.

The Sumitomo Forestry architectural firm recently unveiled its plans for the skyscraper, which will be made of 90 percent wood, 10 percent steel. According to Oona McGee of SoraNews24, architects will utilize “diagonally placed braces” to ensure that the building can withstand Japan’s relatively frequent earthquakes.

The W350 Project, as the structure has been dubbed, will house apartments, offices shops, and hotels. Foliage-filled balconies will wrap around all four sides of the skyscraper, offering “a view of biodiversity in an urban setting,” according to a Sumitomo Forestry press release. Construction costs are expected to be approximately 600 billion yen ($5.6 billion)—around double the cost of a conventional high-rise building—but the company noted that technological advances over the next two decades will likely bring down the hefty price tag.

Wooden houses were once ubiquitous in Japan, but frequent fires prompted a shift towards structures made of concrete and steel. In 2015, however, Sophie Knight of the Financial Times, reported that Japanese architects had once again started to tout the benefits of wood. The material is light, it allows for speedier construction times, and advances in fireproofing technology have made it an increasingly safe option.

Wood also offers a relatively clean alternative to more commonly used materials. Research has indicated that replacing steel, concrete, or brick with wood can dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which is particularly important in Japan, where homes are torn down every 20 to 30 years on average due to government policies encouraging new construction.

“This cycle makes sense with wood, which can be replanted and harvested at the same pace,” Knight wrote.

Japan is not the only country to embrace wood as a construction material. Canada is currently home to the world’s tallest wooden building, a residential structure at the University of British Columbia that stretches 174 feet tall. It may one day be dwarfed by an 800-foot tall wooden tower in Chicago, plans for which are currently underway. And as Mark Austin reports for Digital Trends, Portland recently approved the construction of an 11-story office and apartment building, which may become the first wooden high-rise in the United States.

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