PLP Architecture’s Proven Concept
Second Tallest Building to Shard
Research by Cambridge University, PLP Architecture and structural engineers Smith & Wallwork has presented London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, with conceptual plans for an 80-storey, 300m high wooden tower for the Barbican complex. The proposals make it the second tallest building in London after The Shard.
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Funded
Creating more than 1,000 new residential units in a 1 million sq ft mixed-use tower and mid-rise terraces in the Barbican, central London, the project is also investigating potential benefits like reduced costs, improved construction timescales, increased fire resistance, and significant reduction in the overall weight of buildings.
21st Century “Natural Materials” Vision for Construction
Designed in the middle of 20th Century, the Barbican successfully brought residential living into the City of London Now. These proposals envisage what the future of construction could be like in the 21st century. In the view of Dr Michael Ramage, director of Cambridge’s Centre for Natural Material Innovation, “If London is going to survive it needs to increasingly densify. One way is taller buildings. We believe people have a greater affinity for taller buildings in natural materials rather than steel and concrete towers.”
Timber is an Underused Natural Material
“The fundamental premise is that timber and other natural materials are vastly underused and we don’t give them nearly enough credit. Nearly every historic building, from King’s College Chapel to Westminster Hall, has made extensive use of timber.” says Ramage. Kevin Flanagan, partner at PLP Architecture adds that “Timber buildings have the potential architecturally to create a more pleasing, relaxed, sociable and creative urban experience.” His practice, which is currently designing many of London’s tall buildings, sees the potential for timber to transform the way the city is built in future.
The team involved state that the proposed building would eventually meet or exceed every existing fire regulation currently in place for steel and concrete buildings, with Dr Ramage of PLP explaining “We’ve designed the architecture and engineering and demonstrated it will stand, but this is at a scale no one has attempted to build before. We are developing a new understanding of primary challenges in structure and construction. There is a lot of work ahead, but we are confident of meeting all the challenges before us.”
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Timber’s Limitless Potential
As the construction industry changes to embrace new methods, Timber Frame and related systems, like SIP’s and CLT, are now well established and reliable ways of doing this. However, engagement of timber frame designers and manufacturers at the earliest possible stage is essential to capture all the benefits this holds for developers, builders and home owners.