December 19, 2012
Innovative tales from home and abroad
Construction Corner | Korky Koroluk
A couple of the things I've written about need to be followed - one because a project builder is planning something bigger and better, the other because a death blow may have been dealt to a novel idea.
First, to Austria, where Cree, a systems builder, has finished its hybrid wooden, eight-storey office building, and tenants have been moving in since the end of August. The project is called LCT One, the acronym for Life-Cycle Tower.
Cree calls it a hybrid wooden building because it also uses concrete.
It has a concrete foundation and it has concrete elevators and utility shafts.
But from the foundation, glue-laminated (glulam) wood timbers rise, floor by floor, to frame the building.
So don’t think of it as simply a large log cabin.
The glulam frame and panels are made from several layers of wood, plus layers of other materials, including concrete. Natural variations in the wood can thus be eliminated, so the panels consistently meet the structural, thermal, acoustic and fire-safety criteria needed for use in large buildings.
Nabih Tahan, an architect with Cree, said the objective is “to make buildings like car companies make cars, or computer companies make computers, using an industrial process and a systems approach.
“To get good performance out of buildings, you can’t keep making them chaotically piece by piece on site, cutting things in the rain. You need to design them right and have a step-by-step, organized process.”
The company claims that making everything off-site means shorter construction time because all that happens on site is lifting and placing the panels.
Using less concrete means lower emissions of carbon dioxide, and wood — well, you could say wood grows on trees, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it grows. The result is a building that is better for the environment than conventional office buildings.
Now Cree is looking for something bigger. It wants to use its system to build a 30-storey tower.
So does Michael Green, a Vancouver architect and a champion of building with wood.
Green has developed a system called finding the forest through the trees, or FFTT, which is a system of engineered wood panels he reckons, is good for buildings up to 12 storeys. Add some structural steel and he foresees buildings of 20 storeys or more.
He’d like to put up such a residential building in Vancouver. There are also plans for cross-laminated timber highrises in both Norway and Russia.
Now to Honduras, where the nation’s supreme court struck what might be a death blow to the idea of building three privately run cities that would have operated as virtual city-states, located in Honduras but each with its own police, laws, government and tax systems.
Honduras is an economic basket case, bedevilled by a long tradition of corruption in government and drug-related crime. There was hope that the new entities would be the start of better things.
But an oversight committee called the Transparency Commission was excluded from the signed agreements, which led to suspicions of more corruption.
One of the international development companies that was to take part turned out to have ties to an American-based Libertarian think-tank with dubious dedication to democratic ideals. And then a prominent Honduran human-rights lawyer, who had filed one of the dozens of legal challenges to the new cities, was murdered.
None of those things boded well for the new endeavour. Then, the country’s supreme court ruled that the newly passed law removing national territory from Honduran government control was unconstitutional.
So at the moment, the notion of the private cities seems dead in the water.
It also leaves dead the idea that honest workers might finally find honest jobs building the cities and it leaves Honduras with its reputation for corruption intact.
Korky Koroluk is a regular freelance contributor to the Journal of Commerce. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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