Book Review: Tall Wood Buildings

Tall Wood Buildings: Design, Construction and Performance

By Michael Green and Jim Taggart. Birkhäuser, 2017.

Architect Michael Green, FRAIC and sustainability expert Jim Taggart, FRAIC are on a mission to champion tall wood buildings. Striking a careful balance between the big picture and specifics, this book makes a strong case by carefully explaining why timber construction is important for the future, and delving into complex issues without oversimplifying or getting stuck in details. At times, the text verges on the pedantic in its implication that this is not only a possible scenario for new buildings, but the only truly sustainable option available today.

The book opens with an introduction that explains the fundamentals about how the carbon cycle acts for engineered wood products. This places emphasis on the importance of “maintaining forest carbon stocks.” Detailed introductions to different types of engineered wood products follow, along with a chapter on how tall wood building projects have helped to change legislation in various countries. The addition of project photos in this section would have made it easier to follow the discussion; as it is, there’s a lot of flipping back and forth to the next section, which focuses on projects.

This is where the book gets really inspiring. The book clearly shows the range of possibilities that timber construction allows through 13 best-practice case studies. These showcase different construction methods used in buildings around the world. The case studies are divided into three groups, focusing respectively on the use of engineered wood in panel, frame and hybrid systems. Each building is represented with photos, sections and plans, as well as details of its structural systems. The case studies are thoroughly presented in a way that will be useful to professionals, both with regards to their architectural and structural design.

Tall Wood Buildings is a very important book for the future—not only of architecture and construction—but also in presenting a viable option of how we might build a sustainable future for our planet.

David Valldeby is editor of trä magazine, Sweden.