Most new construction in cities starts with steel. It remains to be seen if the upcoming steel tariffs will negatively impact the sector in terms of cost, but if it does, one side benefit might be renewed interest in a more sustainable alternative: Modular wood construction.
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"The only way to make construction more sustainable is by building with wood on a global scale," writes Metsä Wood, a supplier of engineered wood for construction and industrial applications. "The world needs a Plan B. Wood is a carbon-storing, renewable and strong construction material, yet it accounts only for a very small fraction of global construction."
The company hopes to change that with their Open Source Wood Initiative, which invites architects and engineers to contribute their know-how for creating modular wood components. The information will then be freely disseminated. The need for this type of program illustrates an interesting difference between the education of industrial designers and architects: At ID school we learn how to work with wood, plastic, metal and more, yet architects are schooled primarily on the properties of steel and concrete. Armed with only that knowledge, freshly-minted architects have little incentive to experiment with engineered wood and indeed, would have little say on the matter as a new hire at a firm with an established way of doing things.
Thus far the OSWI appears to be in the solicitation phase; I could find no database of published solutions on their website. But a graduate studio at MIT's Department of Architecture has just announced their participation, so hopefully others will be encouraged to follow suit.
"At a moment when many coastal U.S. cities face the challenges of urbanization, innovating and so testing ideas for green urban hybrid housing is more essential than ever," says MIT Architecture Professor Andrew Scott. "Our MTMR [Mass Timber Mid Rise] studio explores new models of mid-rise affordable housing utilizing mass-timber technologies and Metsä Wood's Open Source Wood initiative provides us valuable insight into wood construction and prefabrication technologies."
You can learn more about the Open Source Wood Initiative here.