Looking up at the future..

February 28, 2013 § 2 Comments

Speaking to the prestigious TED 2013 Conference yesterday, Vancouver architect Michael Green asked the question:  “Why are buildings made of wood only a few stories high when trees found in nature are remarkable for their height?”

Green also introduced reference to sustainability forestry, sharing that enough wood is grown in North America every 13 minutes for a 20 storey building. From a summary of his talk here at Ted Blog: “Building codes currently limit wood buildings to four stories high. And this needs to change, says Green. He proposes that we build skyscrapers out of wood. For the last century, tall buildings have been crafted of steel and concrete — but the green house gas emissions of these materials are huge. As Green notes, 3% of the world’s energy goes into the making of steel and 5% goes into the making of concrete. While most people think of transportation as the main villain when it comes to CO2 emissions, building is actually the true top offender — accounting for 47% of CO2 emissions. Wood, on the other hand, grows by the power of sun, giving off oxygen and storing carbon dioxide. That carbon dioxide is released when the tree falls and decomposes. By building with wood, we could sequester carbon dioxide. Green says that building with one cubic meter of wood stores one ton of CO2.”

“We have an ethic that the earth grows our food,” says Green. “We should move toward an ethic that the earth should grow our homes.”

Locally, the impact of changes in the B.C. Building Code is reflected in a five-storey wood-frame going up in Chilliwack, B.C.

Another fascinating presentation yesterday at the TED Conference was delivered by Alastair Parius, who introduced the revolutionary idea of DIY house building. He talked about availability of “open-source hardware” –  an open-source constructive system where anyone can go on-line and access a freely shared library of 3D models of houses. He claims:  “It’s simple. You can download plans to Sketchup and print out parts for a house. The parts are numbered. No bolts required. Essentially it’s a really really big IKEA set – to build a house.”  He states that “without traditional construction skills an amateur can build a small house in a day.”  ..Hmm… Some might think about that, right after getting the boxed barbecue assembled this spring.

TED is described at Ted.com as “a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started  in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds:  Technology, Entertainment, Design.” TED convenes two annual conferences – one on the west coast of North America and one in Edinburgh, UK.  Next year the North American TED Conference moves to Vancouver, B.C. The two annual conferences bring together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes or less.

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