Join us on         

Question Your World: Can We Make Housing More Eco-friendly?

There are currently over seven billion humans on this planet. As this population grows we’ll need more and more homes for all these people. With limited resources and a constant watch over our impact on the environment, a big question gets brought up frequently about the future of residential construction…can we make housing more eco-friendly? Listen to the latest Question Your World Radio Report from the Science Museum of Virginia.

As access to resources and the growing population enter a new era in the housing conversation, so will the creative minds in the engineering and architecture industries. Sometimes these new issues require some old fashioned thinking. That’s exactly what Canadian architect Michael Green had in mind when he set out to design and build a 30 story skyscraper made out of wood.  Wait a minute, doesn’t wood catch on fire? Won’t this be a big safety issue? Well, wood does catch on fire, but throughout history various cultures have used wood as a means of shelter and clearly most of these individuals were able to survive. With that said, Michael Green and his crew have included several fire prevention techniques in the blue prints ranging from sprinkler systems to fire traps. The remarkable part about the building is not its safety features, but something totally different.  

Generally making a large building like this would involve concrete construction. The current process by which we put up buildings actually releases thousands of pounds of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This is where the wooden skyscraper stands apart! The wood used for this construction spends its entire life soaking in greenhouse gases where as the process of making concrete construction adds to our global climate issues. This building is eco-friendly by simply using materials that don’t add to the greenhouse gas emissions!

For those worried about rotting wood and other natural issues that would make this building’s longevity a concern, no worries. There are many wooden structures around the world that are thousands of years old. In fact there is a pagoda in China that stands over 500 feet tall and has been up for over eight centuries now! 

Will these eco-friendly designs catch on? Architects like Michael Green are knocking on wood and hoping they will!

Article by Prabir Mehta, Science Museum of Virginia

Discover more stories like this at Science Matters and like us on Facebook.