Architectural Record BE - Building Enclosure

Tall Wood Takes a Stand

Tall wood buildings proven safe and cost effective
This course is no longer active
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Sponsored by reThink Wood
Karen Bryan
Continuing Education

Learning Objectives - After this course, you should be able to:

  1. Recognize that mid-rise (six to 12 stories) and tall buildings (up to 30 stories) can be safely, efficiently, and economically built using mass timber construction techniques.
  2. Discuss the different types of design approaches to mass timber construction for tall wood buildings.
  3. Explain the similarities and differences between the structural composite panel and lumber products that allow building professionals to design and construct tall wood buildings.
  4. Distinguish the differences between design approaches to accessing the acceptable structural passive fire protection measures in a mass timber building.



There's a quiet shift on the horizon—one that has the potential to change North American skylines.

Heightened awareness of the environmental benefits of wood combined with advances in wood technology and manufacturing have aligned to make tall wood buildings not only possible but safe and cost effective.

While the increasing number of code-approved, light-frame wood construction projects reaching five and even six stories has helped North American building professionals raise their comfort level with wood, a number of forward-looking architects, engineers, and developers want more. In fact, a recent report from Canadian architect Michael Green of MGA and J. Eric Karsh from Equilibrium Consulting Inc.—The Case for Tall Wood Buildings: How Mass Timber Offers a Safe, Economical, and Environmentally Friendly Alternative for Tall Building Structures—outlines a compelling case for building even taller wood buildings. The comprehensive study shows that mid-rise (six to 12 stories) and tall buildings (up to 30 stories) can be safely, efficiently, and economically built using mass timber construction techniques. In response, architects and engineers around the world are increasingly exploring and verifying the possibilities.

These “tall wood” concepts are anything but theoretical. Mass timber building techniques have been successfully proven in a number of projects worldwide, including a 10-story wood apartment building in Australia, an eight-story apartment building in the U.K., and an eight-story office building in Austria. Around the world, other tall wood projects are also on the books.


LifeCycle Tower ONE by Cree GmbH, located in Dornbirn, Austria, uses a unique wood-hybrid construction system.

Photo courtesy of Cree Buildings, Inc.


Wood is a cost-effective, renewable resource with lower manufacturing greenhouse gas emissions than other building materials; it has the lowest embodied energy among major building materials (including steel and concrete).1 When considering wood’s carbon storage capabilities, mass timber buildings could actually have a negative carbon footprint because the wood continues to store carbon absorbed from the atmosphere during the tree’s growing cycle.2


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Originally published in Architectual Record