May 17, 2018
A new concept released by Washington, D.C.-based Hickok Cole Architects proposes construction of mass timber skyscrapers in Philadelphia. The project’s team asserts that wood construction is a viable, preferable option for the future built environment, as the material is sustainable.
“When you think of a skyscraper, you are usually dealing with steel or concrete,” said Sean McTaggart, project architect at Hickok Cole. “The problem with those two materials is that they cause a lot of carbon emissions.”
The conceptual 62-story Timber Towers complex would feature two office buildings, linked by a connecting bridge. An additional third tower would include 290 residential units, a school, and ground-floor retail. The structures would contain 58,761 m3 of wood products, all of which can be replenished by North American forests.
“Total emissions savings are the equivalent to taking 12,073 cars off the road for an entire year,” reads Hickok Cole’s proposal.
In addition to environmental advantages, the Timber Towers team promotes cost and scheduling benefits related to mass timber construction. As these buildings are typically built using prefabricated components, the structural elements are generally able to be assembled by a smaller crew in a shorter period of time, leading to faster and more efficient construction.
“This is less disruptive to the neighborhood, and on average results in a 20 percent reduction in the construction schedule. A 60-story office tower such as Timber Towers could theoretically be topped off six months sooner if constructed using mass timber,” reads the project proposal.
The team also addresses public concerns related to fire safety and mass timber construction, asserting that wood structures often offer better safety than those comprised of other building materials.
“In the event of a fire, mass timber members quickly form a protective char layer, and actually survive longer than unprotected steel members. The thickness and density of mass timber allows it to serve as a finish material that also provides necessary fire rating,” reads the proposal.
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