In London stands a building that’s claimed to be the tallest wooden residential structure in the world. Standing nine stories in height, wood dominates from the second level onwards. Constructed three years ago, the Graphite Apartments are built using engineered timber called cross-laminated timber. The CLT-based apartment is sturdy and uses up to five layers of wood to make it more fire resistant.
The Graphite Apartments have garnered quite a bit of attention for its use of wood which isn’t generally considered to be feasible. Wood can burn and isn’t as hardy as concrete or metal. But this 29-unit structure wasn’t built along the same lines as an ordinary wooden house. Thick layers of panels measuring about 6 inches in density and up to 30 feet long ensure that it is able to resist fire better. Plasterboard coverings further improve its resistance.
It’s a fact that wooden foundations aren’t able to bear heavy loads which is why the architects of the Graphite Apartments used concrete for the base. This enables the building to endure the weight of the wooden units. The elevator shaft and stairways have been fitted with double walls and an insulating layer in between to provide soundproofing and increase resistance to fire.
The laminated spruce panels were fabricated in Austria and then shipped to London where bolting took place on-site. CLT, which resembles supersize plywood, covers all the interior walls, roof, floors, stairs and the elevator.
According to Innovative Timber Systems based out of the United States, CLT is the ideal material to be used in construction. The company hopes to be on the forefront of cross-laminated timber production in the US and has already built a martial arts studio in Montana’s Whitefish. Since the wood was sourced from Austria which can drive up costs, Innovative Timber Systems is hoping to be able to produce the same in the US to make it feasible for ordinary folks to go the eco-friendly way and use CLT to build homes.
For those wondering how chopping down wood can be termed eco-friendly, Innovative Timber Systems is hoping that its plan to produce CLT in its home country will address the issue of using beetle-infested pine trees that have been killed but are still left standing in North America.