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Monday, March 5, 2018

Sumitomo Forestry Wants To Build A 350 Meter High Building Made Of Wood

I am unsure how I feel about this.

I really like innovative architecture, but  Japanese lumber and housing firm Sumitomo Forestry is planning to build a skyscraper in Tokyo made out of wood.

I like wood. Nothing wrong with wood.

The problem, as I see it, is that Japan has a lot of earthquakes, and wood tends to splinter.

On top of that, wood burns easily.

Maybe I’m just a worrywart.

The proposed supertall building will be built to a height of 350 meters (1,148 feet).

Let’s see… each storey/story is 10-feet… so it would be 114 storeys/storys high (rounding down).


Now… like I said… this is still in the discussion stage, but plans for the building—to be called W350 (I assume for the number of meters it will be high—have it at offering a total of 455,000 square meters (4,897,579 square feet) of floorspace, and a total of 70 floors…. so I guess not all levels are going to be created equally.

If you take a gander at the three concept drawings created by Sumitomo Forestry, it will not take the shape of a standard skyscraper, perhaps (I’m postulating) that it needs to be structured in a manner to better accommodate weight, since we are talking about wood.

Now, it’s not just a building made of giant-sized Popsicle sticks. Steel will be utilized in its construction to provide strength, and to better provide a robust attitude in the face of any possible earthquakes… proving that the architectural firm has already covered at least one of my concerns.

The steel is also there to protect against high wind possibilities, proving that the architectural firm is covering things  I haven’t thought about in the 10 seconds I spent thinking about such things.

Still, the structure is expected to built with 90 percent wood materials, and the remainder with steel structural components, implying it won’t be outwardly visible. 

The building is to be a mix of residential, retail, office space and hotel(s), and if we are to believe the 2018 drawings, the facade and roof will contain greenery.

I added the 2018 date in the last sentence/paragraph because the W350  - if it is even built - is not scheduled to be completed until 2041—Sumitomo Forestry’s 350th birthday!

Oh wait… that’s why there’s really a “350” in the building’s name. 

According to Sumitomo Forestry, the structure will use a braced tube structure in which steel frame vibration control braces (diagonal braces) are positioned inside a column and beam structure, and made from a combination of wood and steel.

“The outermost side is designed with balconies that continue around all four sides of the building. The balcony part gives the high-rise building a space in which people can enjoy fresh outside air, rich natural elements and sunshine filtering through foliage. The greenery connects from the ground to the top floors through the balcony part, and it offers a view of biodiversity in an urban setting,” says Sumitomo Forestry.

One of the main stumbling blocks to the actual construction of the W350 is its projected price: ¥600 billion (~US$5.6 billion).

Along with wanting to have it constructed in time for its anniversary in 2041, Sumitomo Forestry hopes that in the interim, there might actually be some technological advances in timber construction and/or research that will help lower costs.

That’s fine, but they also have to hope trees aren’t extinct by then.

Andrew Joseph
PS: While not discussed, I can only assume that the wooden aspects of the W350 would be sprayed with fire-resistant chemicals. Right? Or is this one of those things they need better technology for?    

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