Science

Wood as a raw material for large buildings

The creation of a plan for a large building, where the basic material used is wood, is the subject of a MIT class project.

As MIT News says, “Longhouse” aims to save energy, as the construction and operation of all kinds of “conventional” large buildings today require large amounts of energy along with the pollutants that this entails. This project will be presented in October at the Maine Mass Timber Conference, which is to explore the possibilities of using wood.

John Klein, a researcher in the MIT Architecture Department and a lecturer in a lab called Mass Timber Design, who created the new plan, explains that “in North America we have an abundance of forest resources … an attempt is being made to find ways to use sustainable forest products, and forests are subject to impairment procedures to prevent forest fires and insect spread. ”

As Klein notes, most people think of wood as a material suitable only for few-storey buildings, but not for really large buildings. However, some manufacturers have begun to use large amounts of wood in larger structures, including buildings up to 20 floors. As highlighted by this technology, even taller buildings could be possible – indeed, one of the tallest wooden buildings in the world is the John W. Olver Design Building at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

One of the most important questions arising from the use of wood in large buildings is the risk of fire – but Klein responds that tests have shown that mass timber buildings are more resistant to fire than those using steel as wood exposed in a fire produces de facto a layer of ash, which is insulating and can protect the bulk of the wood for more than two hours. Instead, the steel can collapse abruptly as it softens and bends because of the fire.

The building designed by the MIT class uses large beams made of wood layers bonded together – a process known as LVL (laminated veneer lumber). These are used to create large arches, which help to increase the strength of the building. The roof is also specially designed to bring solar panels and windows for natural lighting and passive solar heating. The building will be largely prefabricated, and the construction process will be very easy, according to Klein.