Wooden Skyscraper

Because I have been researching wooden structures for my final paper, I’ve been surprised and impressed by the different types of completely wooden buildings that exist, and I began to wonder whether or not a skyscraper built completely of wood would be possible. The largest completely wooden structure that exists today is the temple Todai-ji in Japan, which is 57 meters wide, 50 meters deep, and 40 meters high. The Todai-ji temple was built in the style of traditional Japanese architecture in 728. The largest wooden structure built by modern methods of construction is Odate Jukai Dome, also in Japan. The site area of Odate Jukai Dome is 130 square meters, and the height is 52 meters. A wooden truss arch is used for the roof.

250px-Tōdai-ji_Kon-dō     mk_29     oodate_375


Recently, Japanese architect Toshihito Yokouchi has proposed the construction of a 72 story, 339 meter tall skyscraper built completely out of wooden. Yokouchi proposed the design of a wooden skyscraper based on the argument that a completely wooden structure would be much more environmentally friendly, especially compared to some of the most common materials used in todays architecture, like concrete and iron. Yokouchi also claims that wood can become the perfect new popular material for building if current technology can only manage to fix it’s two main weaknesses: rotting and flammability.

25_work2     25_main


Wooden architecture can be very sustainable. Many wooden buildings, mostly temples and shrines, have existed for hundreds of years in Japan, withstanding the test of time. The oldest wooden structure is a temple in Japan: Horyu-ji, which was built 1400 years ago. It is still functioning and has withstood countless earthquakes and the regular wear and tear of weather.



I personally agree with Yokouchi, and think it is fair proposal to focus on the use of wood as a primary building material, specifically for small to medium sized buildings, like houses. If a wooden skyscraper is indeed possible, I believe it could revolutionize the architectural world, offering wood as an eco-friendly, natural, and sustainable material for building. However, I cannot foresee that traditional Japanese architecture, which makes the majority of examples of completely wooden structures possible, will be anywhere near as functional for modern skyscrapers as a combination of wood and modern technology would be. In addition, traditional Japanese architectural design takes quite a bit longer to build with, and requires much more human labor than do modern techniques and materials.








  1. I appreciate all of the factors of wood construction this post considers. I believe it is important to consider why these techniques have not been used very often and confront each of the arguments against using heavy timber construction.

    You have already identified that in the case of traditional Japanese architecture the building technique is more labor intensive, takes a longer time and requires more skilled labor. While this will drive up construction costs there may be an argument in there about bringing people back to the construction trades. An opportunity for creating jobs and skilled work with large scale wood construction may be an unexpected benefit of this construction type.

    Furthermore, do not underestimate the importance of what Yokouchi has said about wood’s main weaknesses. Rotting and flammability are major marks against wood construction even despite the earthquake resistance and more sustainable building material. It is easy to find professionals who are passionate about what they do to the point that what sounds like a great supporting quote is actually so unfounded it detracts from your argument. What I mean is, when I read, “…if current technology can only manage to fix its two main weaknesses: rotting and flammability” I think, “ha, yeah, wouldn’t that be nice.” I think it is important when considering these negatives about wood construction to identify ways in which technology has already started to address some of these issues that could start to make wood construction more viable.

    Finally, I would be critical about addressing wood as a sustainable building material. While wood can be grown there is a lot that goes into harvesting wood and manufacturing large wooden timbers that may not be as “green” as they seem. I question what kinds of glues and sealants are used in manufactured glue-laminated wood (which would most likely be a significant material if large scale wood construction starts to become more popular). How sustainable is wood if to meet the demands of a building of this scale deplete the source more rapidly than we have in the past, utilizes dangerous chemicals and glues and has a energy intensive and carbon negative manufacturing, delivery and construction process.

    I think the idea of large scale wood construction is very interesting and inspiring. I think you have done a nice job so far of thinking of potential arguments against this construction type and I encourage you to really investigate contradictions to your arguments so you are clear that the positives outweigh the negatives.

  2. kieck033

    A seventy-two story skyscraper constructed only from heavy timber is being proposed to be built? The idea of this just simply baffles me. In my opinion, a wooden skyscraper would change the way architecture views wood’s structural integrity. This innovation is extraordinarily fascinating and exciting if it can be made a reality.

    As far as the comments on a more sustainable and environmentally friendly structure, I completely agree with the statement. For my research paper I am focusing on the use concrete, coincidentally about how ultra-performance concrete allowed for the construction of the Burj Khalifa, currently the highest rising structure in the world. Now, it is understood that the Burj Khalifa is an incredible structure and is over double the height of Toshihito Yokouchi’s proposed wood skyscraper. However, the concrete used to create the structure produced an immense amount of carbon dioxide emissions. On the other hand, the wooden skyscraper would be completely friendly to the world’s health. The question to ask then is can a wooden skyscraper half the height of a concrete high rise be just as monumental and beloved? I believe the answer to this question is without a doubt a YES.

    From what the renderings show, this wooden skyscraper is an extremely elegant and beautiful structure. The sheer beauty of the building can possibly compensate for the lack of height compared to other skyscrapers across the world. So although we have the ability to building skyscrapers that exceed 170 stories, sometimes it may be necessary to take a step back and think about the environment and build with more sustainable materials.

  3. holme408

    I found this post to be very interesting. The thought of a 72 story wooden skyscraper is remarkable and intriguing. It really tests the limits of the material in ways that it has not been used, which is something that is fascinating. I appreciated how you not only focused your information on the new innovative use for the material, but you tied it into its previous uses in temples and shrines. You were able to make a great argument that these structures would be incredibly sustainable based on how wooden structures over one hundred years old have managed to remain in great condition. While I agree with you in that the material is sustainable and durable, I cannot help but look at other aspects that may cause the material to be a little less satisfactory than I had first hoped. The level of durability and sustainability lumber can be overshadowed by the fact that there are still major problems worldwide with deforestation. If we architects were to start designing skyscrapers of wood, there would be devastating consequences on the natural environment because of the increased demand that would be instilled. Therefore, although wooden skyscrapers are incredibly beautiful to look at and appreciate, it is overshadowed by the effects of deforestation.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: