Boston Society of Architects' Urban Timber exhibition demonstrates applications for wood in massive buildings, installations include 'Coopered Column', a bowl-shaped load-bearing structure designed by homebuilder Bensonwood of Walpole, New Hampshire

LOS ANGELES , July 1, 2014 () – A bowl-shaped engineered wood structure that can be used as a structural element in a multi-story wood building is one of four installations on show at the Boston Society of Architects’ gallery, New Hampshire Public Radio reported on June 30.

The Urban Timber exhibition, which is free and open throughout the summer, aims to demonstrate applications for wood in massive buildings, as more construction systems come on stream that can replace metal and concrete.

The bowl-shaped structure, known as the Coopered Column, has been designed by architect Tim Olson, from Bensonwood, a manufacturer of timber frame homes based in Walpole, New Hampshire. The installation weighs around 3,000 pounds, and features a long protruding lip designed to be stabilized with concealed steel counter-weights.

Olson calls the bowl-shaped structure a column because he wanted to demonstrate that a wooden column could handle the weight of a skyscraper, and that the shape of the design could stand up to the stresses created when supporting a massive building.

The column is 'coopered' because it is constructed along the same principles as a barrel, with interlocking timbers that act like staves, and a ring of screws that mimic the function of a metal cooper holding the staves together.

The exhibition aims to highlight the role of wood in lowering the environmental footprint of wood to the public and the architect community. Mike Green, and architect practicing in New York, noted that steel represented about 3% of man’s greenhouse emissions, and concrete more than 5%. He estimated that a 20-story building constructed with wood instead of steel or concrete saves around 4,300 tons of carbon.

Currently, massive wood buildings have reached a maximum of around nine stories worldwide, but a 34-story wooden skyscraper is planned to be completed in Sweden by 2023, New Hampshire Public Radio reported.

Proponents of the building method say the cross-laminated timber panels used in massive timber construction are more effective at resisting fire than an equivalent steel structure.

Another benefit is the use of a material that can be sustainably harvested, according to the New England Forestry Foundation, which recently released a report that included a 50-year simulation model showing that the region could sustainably double its current timber harvest. Bob Perchel, executive director of the foundation, said the model allowed for the protection of water quality and setting aside wildlife reserves.

The primary source of this article is New Hampshire Public Radio, Concord, New Hampshire, on June 30, 2014. The original article can be viewed here.

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