Are plyscrapers the future of timber buildings?

A suburb in Brisbane known as Bowen Hills is the latest location for what is commonly known as plyscrapers.

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The nine-storey office building is made almost entirely of wood, with many thousands of prefabricated wooden panels and beams held in place by a series of screws and bolts.

Known as 25 King Street, the wooden high-rise building looks like any other steel or concrete building. Once up close, however, the chunky wooden frame becomes evident.

Tall timber buildings known as plyscrapers are being constructed across both North America and Europe, with Australia not far behind.


It might seem strange to construct buildings today from wood; however, there are many benefits, as any timber frame construction company will tell you:

– Quicker to build. Whereas concrete and steel skyscrapers can take several weeks to build per floor, wooden buildings benefit from pre-constructed wooded panels that can be slotted into the correct place in a few hours.
– Weight. Moving the material from one place to another is much easier given the difference is weight.
– Environmental. Compared with concrete and steel, wood has a much lower carbon footprint. Concrete and steel account for eight and five per cent of world emissions. Wood absorbs carbon, locking it away inside until it is burnt.

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Traditional building material

It might seem strange to us, but as any timber frame construction company will confirm, wood has been around as a building tool for millennia. The Pagoda of the Chinese Emperor Daozong was built in 1056 and still stands today. It has survived many earthquakes – wood is very flexible – and still stands as the tallest wooden structure in the world, which is a remarkable feat.

The wood being used today is cross-laminated timber (CLT), which is made of tiny layers of crisscrossed wood pressed together with a glue that is fire resistant. People claim that it matches steel in strength, with the alternate directions of the grain meaning that wood never warps when wet. It is also said to be extremely fire resistant, which is borne out by numerous studies.

A concern for timber buildings is that they are light – that the higher up you go, the more movement you get. Some have suggested that a concrete core could be used to reinforce them to the ground.

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