The Economist delves into building really big things out of wood.

treetopNew techniques mean that wood can now be used for much taller buildings. A handful are already going up in cities around the world. The 14-storey Treet block of flats in Bergen, Norway, is currently the tallest. But Brock Commons, an 18-storey wooden dormitory at the University of British Columbia in Canada, is due to be completed in 2017. That is when construction is expected to begin on the 21-storey Haut building in Amsterdam. Arup, a firm of engineering consultants working on the project, says it will be built using sustainable European pine. Some architects have even started designing wooden skyscrapers, like the proposed Tratoppen (“the treetop” illustrated above), a 40-floor residential tower on the drawing-board in Stockholm.

. . . Anders Berensson, the Swedish architect who designed Tratoppen, believes engineered wood will become the cheapest way to construct tall buildings in the future. Another benefit of the material, he says, is the ability to carve the wood readily. In his current design the number of each floor is cut into the building’s exterior.

. . . One big obstacle to this wooden renaissance is regulation. Building codes vary around the world. In America cities can restrict wooden buildings to five or six storeys (about the height of a fire engine’s ladder). Exemptions can be made, however, and proponents of wood are hoping that as taller timber buildings emerge, city planners will adjust the rules. If they do, an old-fashioned branch of architecture might enjoy a revival.