Wood buildings can be a beautiful, sustainable alternative to their concrete and steel counterparts. But how tall can timber structures actually get?
A wooden building is one that reaches six storeys or more, or stands over 18m above grade. Tall wood buildings use new technologies like cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glued-laminated timber (glulam) for core pieces of the structures, such as firewalls. The current International Building Code allows wood buildings as tall as 18 storeys tall.
Many tall wood buildings are built using prefabricated elements, making it easier to build them in tight areas, with minimal disruption to neighbouring properties. Once complete, timber buildings tend to have superior acoustical and temperature regulation properties.
They all boast different architecture designs and uses. Check out the list below for some of the world’s tallest wood buildings:
1. Origine, Quebec City, Canada
This 13-storey multi-family housing building in Quebec City uses CLT for load-bearing walls, shear walls, floors, and the roof, while glulam posts and beams contribute to the structural system. The engineered wood on this project was sourced from Chantiers Chibougamau in Northern Quebec from certified black spruce. Origine was designed by Yvan Blouin Architect and completed in 2017.
2. Brock Commons Tallwood House, University of British Columbia, Canada
The construction by Acton Ostry Architects Inc., Brock Commons Tallwood House, stretches 18 storeys high. The University of British Columbia’s student residence building is a hybrid wood structure. The project was finished less than 70 days after prefabricated components arrived on site in 2017.
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat declared this 85.4-metre-high tower the world’s tallest building at its completion in 2019, replacing the previous title holder—Brock Commons Tallwood House.
4. Ascent, Milwaukee, United States
Set to take the title for world’s tallest timber building is Ascent, a 25-storey mass timber structure in Milwaukee. Laminated timber panels for the project are being manufactured in Austria. The building by Korb + Associates Architects will contain 259 luxury apartments upon its completion in 2022.
5. Oakwood Tower, London, UK
Part of a proposed 1,000 residential-unit development, the Oakwood Timber Tower’s 80-storey structure in London could be a massive step forward in the height of timber structures. Oakwood is still in its conceptual phases, but PLP architecture has already made some solid arguments for the future of timber construction.
6. HoHo Wien
Completed in 2019, the mixed-use 24-storey tower HoHo Wien is a Rudiger Lainer + Partner (RLP) architecture firm project. This hybrid timber structure contains a concrete structural core.
7. Baobab, Paris, France
The proposed 35-storey Baobab is the work of Canadian Architecture firm Michael Green. It would contain residences, social and market housing, as well as office and retail space, all alongside community gardens and a bus depot.
8. Forté, Melbourne, Australia
A 10-storey residential tower with waterfront luxury suites, the Forté took the prize for tallest timber apartment building upon its completion in 2012. It was also Australia’s first major residential project to use CLT in its construction.
9. Sara Kulturhus, Skellefteå, Sweden
Sara Kulturhus is a 19-storey tower completed in 2019. It houses a hotel, a cultural centre on three of its floors, and an art museum. At 76 metres tall, the work of White Arkitekter takes top prize for the tallest wood structure in the Nordic countries.
10. Trätoppen, Stockholm, Sweden
When complete, Trätoppen will contain 250 apartments within its 33 storeys. Residents will never forget what floor they’re on—the wooden number facade is readable from inside and will display floor numbers for inhabitants. This proposed building is the work of Anders Berensson, commissioned by the Stockholm Centre Party.
11. Wood Innovation and Design Centre, Prince George, British Columbia
When the Wood Innovation and Design Centre was completed in 2014, it was the world’s tallest all-timber structure at 29.5 metres tall. The building’s eight-storey structure was conceived by architect Michael Green, known for his research of and advocacy for tall timber buildings.
12. Treet, Bergen, Norway
A 14-storey building that houses 62 apartment units, Norway’s Treet broke Forté’s record for the largest timber-constructed apartment building. Architect Artec was behind the structure, constructed partially from Norwegian-sourced engineered wood.
13. Dalston Works, London, UK
British architect Waugh Thistleton brought the concept of high-density timber housing to the UK with this 10-storey housing project in London. Beyond being tall, Dalston Works also boasts the title of largest CLT structure in the world, with an impressive 121 residential units contained within.
14. T3, Minneapolis, USA
Tall wood buildings aren’t all residential—T3 represents the commercial crowd with this seven-storey timber offering in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis. It’s also the third entry on this list by architect Michael Green. T3 pays a shout-out to Minneapolis’ lumber-industry past and a call to embrace timber structures going forward.
The Future is Bright for Timber
Though these buildings vary in use, size, and aesthetic, they have one thing in common: They represent a future that’s bright for timber buildings around the world. The sustainability of a renewable product, the warm looks, and the improved temperature regulation of wood make timber an attractive option for many types of construction.