Timber offices: the time has come
How multidisciplinary engineering is unlocking the benefits of wood
Timber is the only renewable building material. It is strong and light, making it easy to transport and erect. It can also be machined to very high tolerances, making it ideal for prefabrication. New wood products such as CLT (cross laminated timber), and recent advances in computer-controlled manufacturing, now make it an attractive choice for office construction.
If acoustics, floor vibration and fire safety are addressed early in the design process, wood can be left exposed – saving on the cost of finishes and adding to the beauty of the interior. This is where our multidisciplinary approach can offer real cost savings. We believe that wood can create office buildings that are attractive, sustainable and affordable.
Why use timber?
These benefits of timber make it an ideal construction material. Richard Hough explains
in this film what makes timber unique, and how that can radically change the construction
Engineered woods such as CLT and glulam have huge potential – something our designers and engineers are exploring through projects such as the LifeCycle Tower. Built using our concept design, the tower is part of a research project to develop a hybrid timber system for sustainable high-rise construction.
“The composite wood and concrete floors provide the same strength and performance as a standard floor but weigh 50% less”
Projects like the LifeCycle Tower and the Believe in Better Building take advantage of timber’s multiple benefits.
- Timber is the only 100% renewable building material
- Timber locks up carbon for the life of the building
- Because it’s a cellular material like bone, wood is strong and light
- This lightweight cellular structure also makes wood a natural insulator
- Easy to prefabricate and transport, timber makes for quick construction
- Timber is attractive and can be left exposed, reducing the cost of finishes
A sustainable material
Employed as part of a multidisciplinary engineering approach, timber is one of the most sustainable construction materials.
Sustainably grown wood from North American and European forests could easily provide enough timber to build thousands more projects like the buildings we’ve already helped bring to life.
Believe in Better
For Sky’s Believe in Better Building we used a glulam (glue laminated) timber frame with CLT slabs. The first 4-storey open-plan timber office in the UK, it was delivered in under a year because building with wood is so quick.
Following the success of the Believe in Better Building, we’ve already designed two more projects for Sky: BSKYB, Health and Fitness Centre, and a timber roof over a multipurpose office and studio that uses 12km of glulam beams.
Meet the team
Who are the people who make projects like this happen? Here are some key members of our team:
Arup’s Global Timber Specialist, Andrew is working with the timber industry in the USA, UK, China, SE Asia and Australia to help make timber a standard construction material alongside steel and concrete. He is a member of the European Timber Structural Design Code Committee and a judge for the UK Wood Awards.
Adrian was instrumental in developing Arup’s approach to sustainable building design. He helped the Engineering Council develop their principles for sustainability and brings a clear understanding of building design and sustainability approaches to projects around the world – skills which he is now applying to timber.
Andrew is the leader of one of our multidisciplinary building design groups in Sydney. He has a passion for design philosophies that combine innovation with efficient solutions and believes that wood can now help make multi-storey buildings faster, cheaper and better.
The leader of our structural design team in Germany, Carsten specialises in composite construction – combining materials such as wood, steel and concrete, as well as building information modelling (BIM) and prefabrication. His work includes the original concept for the Life Cycle Tower and the Metropol Parasol.
Hans-Erik leads our structural team in Seattle. He is a passionate believer in timber’s potential, is currently designing one of the largest timber structures in the world and is helping lead research in the US into the use of timber in earthquake regions.
Mitsuhiro has worked in the US, Japan, and the UK, delivering award-winning projects. He has received the Gengo Matsui Award (now called Japan Structural Design Award) and is an Associate Professor at Tokyo University of the Arts, where he teaches technology-based design courses to architecture students.