- Austrian construction crews have started building what project architects say will be the tallest wood skyscraper in the world, according to The Local.
- The 275-foot-high, 24-story HoHo commercial tower located in Vienna — costing approximately $71.65 million — will feature a hotel, restaurant, offices and a wellness center.
- Although the core of the building will be built from concrete, 76% of the structure will be constructed using spruce wood. Project officials said they have been working with the Vienna fire department to address fire safety concerns.
Although designers all over the world have ambitious plans for "plyscrapers," the current titleholder of the world's tallest wood building goes to the University of British Columbia's 174-foot-tall, 18-story, $39 million Brock Commons residence hall. The 174-foot structure will house more than 400 students when it is finished in September 2017. Similar to its Austrian counterpart, it relied on concrete for its foundation and stair cores. Project officials also said the building's materials and design will have the same effect as taking 500 cars off the road for one year.
Swedish designers Anders Berensson Architects also have a wood tower in the works. The company was commissioned by a local liberal political party to design a 436-foot, 40-story wooden residential structure to help combat Stockholm's affordable housing crisis. PLP Architecture and the University of Cambridge also submitted a proposal for a 984-foot-tall residential tower in London's Barbican housing estate earlier this year. Both projects have yet to go beyond the planning stages.
Despite the rising popularity of wood towers, there is still concern as to whether they are as safe as those made from noncombustible materials. Recently, the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs, GA, elected to ban wood-framed buildings taller than three stories and larger than 100,000 square feet. However, Justin Mihalik, president of the American Institute of Architects New Jersey chapter, told Construction Dive earlier this month that any building can be made safe from the effects of fire by following local building codes.
The increased use of wood — mostly cross-laminated timber in the taller structures — would be a boon for the wood industry, and the American Wood Council touts the material as a sustainable choice due to its ability to store the carbon absorbed during a tree's growing cycle. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has attempted to increase use of American wood products through its sponsorship of the U.S. Wood Tall Building Competition. Each of the winning teams, one from New York and the other from Portland, OR, won $1.5 million to further develop their high-rise wood designs.