PLP Architecture and Cambridge University have unveiled plans for London’s first timber skyscraper at the Barbican Estate. If built, the 300-meter-tall wooden building would be the tallest of its kind in the world and the second tallest building in London after the Shard. In addition to the use of renewable materials, the skyscraper’s timber frame could also lock in 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide—equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of 5,000 Londoners.
Located in central London, the sculptural one-million-square-foot mixed-use skyscraper and mid-rise terraces would create over 1,000 new residential units. Architects and researchers are interested in the use of timber in tall building due to wood’s renewable advantages as well as possible reduced construction costs, improved timescales, and increased fire resistance as compared to traditional concrete and steel buildings. Studies have also suggested that timber construction can have a wide positive impact on urban environments and occupant health.
“If London is going to survive it needs to increasingly densify,” said Dr. Michael Ramage, Director of Cambridge’s Center for Natural Material Innovation. “One way is taller buildings. We believe people have a greater affinity for taller buildings in natural materials rather than steel and concrete towers. The fundamental premise is that timber and other natural materials are vastly underused and we don’t give them nearly enough credit. Nearly every historic building, from King’s College Chapel to Westminster Hall, has made extensive use of timber.”
The proposed skyscraper would be built from farmed forest materials. Approximately 65,000-cubic-meters of structural timber would be used in construction, and structural softwood would be sourced from PEFC or FSC-certified forests. The relatively lightweight timber building would also be faster and quieter to build when compared to conventional construction. The proposal was recently presented to Mayor of London Boris Johnson for consideration.