Our built environment is constantly adapting to changing factors: technology, the state of the economy, material resource availability, and, in turn, environmental conditions. The latter has gained notable importance in popular discourse, and especially in the architecture and construction professions. However, as much as we see terms such as “sustainability” and “green” in our everyday lives, government and industry are slow to take action investing in our future environment. Material resources in the building industry are worth investigating. Timber, used as a structural material to compete with concrete and steel, brings more energy efficient and natural renewable resources to our growing cities. In order to provide a broader perspective of how we as a society use concrete, steel, and timber, I will compare the three building materials in a four part guideline: Environmental Performance, Ease of Manufacture, Organized Assembly, and Design Flexibility.
Wood is a highly versatile renewable material (with carbon sequestering properties), that is light in weight, has good strength properties in both tension and compression while providing good rigidity and toughness, and good insulating properties (relative to typical structural materials). Engineered wood products combine the benefits of wood with engineering knowledge to create optimized structural elements. Cross-laminated timber (CLT), as one such engineered wood product, is an emerging engineering material which provides great opportunities for the building industry. While building with wood has many benefits, there are also some concerns, particularly decay. Should wood be exposed to elevated amounts of moisture, rots and moulds may damage the product or even risk the health of the occupants. As CLT panels are a relatively new engineered wood product, the moisture characteristics have yet to be properly assessed.