With the news of what will soon be the world’s tallest hybrid timber tower occupying the Sydney skyline (ArchitectureAU Editorial, 2020), and the countless articles online about the return of wood in architecture, we can’t help but to dig deeper into the different properties of this naturally renewable resource, and its increased popularity in modern Australian architecture.

Humankind used timber as a primary building material before recorded history, and it continues to be one of the most popular residential construction materials of our time. However, the single most used material in the world is concrete, and our city skylines have long been dominated by the matter. It is highly uncommon for commercial buildings to be made out of wood- up until now. Developments like International House in Barangaroo, and now what will become the world’s tallest hybrid tower, are local examples of what can be referred to as an international architectural revolution.

The world’s current tallest wooden building, is an 85.4-meter-high mixed-use building in Brumunddal, Norway. The building contains a swimming pool, hotel, apartments, and office space, demonstrating how physics is no obstacle for the building material. The renewable resource that serves as a carbon trap is light to transport, is far less energy-hungry than concrete and steel, and is now being recognised for its use in both residential and commercial developments.

From an architect’s perspective timber is versatile and dynamic, with uses that only stop at their own imagination. The durable material can be bent, carved, nailed, and painted. It’s acrobatic properties and potential to decarbonize the built environment has caught on in modern architecture, and the introduction of wood in commercial buildings is setting a new sustainable standard in the industry.

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