In his article on “20-storey buildings”, Dave McGinn writes about the vision of building high-rises from wood. Just because something can be done doesn't make it a sound option. We must look to fact and research combined with sound principles of environmental stewardship.
The safety of mid-rise cross-laminated timber buildings has yet to be established and backed by “rock solid data.” Tall wood buildings are facing tremendous hurdles, as seen in B.C. last year with the fire that destroyed a six-storey building under construction in Richmond, or the growing fire safety backlash in Britain's wood building industry. Hurricane Sandy and Japan’s tsunami last year are tragic reminders of our need for resilient construction.
On the environmental front, recent cradle-to-grave lifecycle assessment research from MIT and UBC has firmly concluded that multi-storey concrete buildings outperform similar wood-framed structures through superior energy performance over their lifetime.
Not to be ignored is the significant impact that wood harvesting and clear cutting has on biodiversity covering millions of acres of Canadian woodlands. Or that manufactured wood products may travel huge distances to a building site whereas concrete is always produced locally.
Our driving principle should be: build it once, build it right, and build it to last.
President and CEO
Cement Association of Canada