Tag Archives: trees

Wooden Skyscrapers

Recent innovations in engineered timber have laid the foundations for the world’s first wooden skyscrapers to appear within a decade, a feat that is not only achievable—according to the Centre for Natural Material Innovation—but one they hope will beckon in an era of sustainable wooden cities, helping reverse historic emissions from the construction industry.

The research team based at the Faculty of Architecture of Cambridge University (UK), is interdisciplinary, composed of architects, biochemists, chemists, mathematicians and engineers, who specialise in plant-based material, including cross-laminated timber, arguably the first major structural innovation since the advent of reinforced concrete, 150 years ago.

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Until cross-laminated timber, there was simply no building material to challenge steel or reinforced concrete. To construct cities and indeed skyscrapers, we just had to accept the good and the bad of existing materials“, said Principal Investigator Dr Michael Ramage.

Concrete is about five times heavier than timber, which means more expense for foundations and transport; it’s resource-intensive, and contributes to tremendous carbon dioxide emissions. After water, concrete is the most consumed material by humanity. But now we have an alternative, and it’s plant-based,” he added.

The team envisage trees supplanting concrete as the predominant building material for cities, with buildings sown like seeds and cities harvested as crops, a way of simultaneously addressing climate change and global housing shortages.

Dr Ramage explained: “In England alone, we need to build 340,000 new homes each year over the next 12 years to accommodate our population. Concrete is unsustainable. Timber, however, is the only building material we can grow, and that actually reduces carbon dioxide. Every tonne of timber expunges 1.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Doing the calculations, if all new English homes were constructed from timber, we could capture and offset the carbon footprints of around 850,000 people for 10 years.

“The sustainable forests of Europe take just 7 seconds to grow the volume of timber required for a 3 bedroom apartment, and 4 hours to grow a 300 metre supertall skyscraper. Canada’s sustainable forests alone yield enough timber to house a billion people in perpetuity, with forested trees replenishing faster than their eventual occupants.

Various teams around the world are hoping to produce the tallest wooden skyscraper, however the team from Cambridge is confident they’ll be the first, having done holistic work on three proposals for timber skyscrapers in London, Chicago, and the Hague, all of which are set to be showcased to the public at the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition 2019, freely open to the public from July 1–7.

Source: https://www.cam.ac.uk/

Trees Will Save The Climate

Around 0.9 billion hectares of land worldwide would be suitable for reforestation, which could ultimately capture two thirds of human-made carbon emissions. The Crowther Lab of ETH Zurich has published a study in the journal Science that shows this would be the most effective method to combat climate changeThe Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich investigates nature-based solutions to climate change. In their latest study the researchers showed for the first time where in the world new trees could grow and how much carbon they would store.

Reforestation would be the most effective method to combat climate change

One aspect was of particular importance to us as we did the calculations: we excluded cities or agricultural areas from the total restoration potential as these areas are needed for human life,” explains study lead author and postdoc at the Crowther Lab Jean-François Bastin.

The researchers calculated that under the current climate conditions, Earth’s land could support 4.4 billion hectares of continuous tree cover. That is 1.6 billion more than the currently existing 2.8 billion hectares. Of these 1.6 billion hectares, 0.9 billion hectares fulfill the criterion of not being used by humans. This means that there is currently an area of the size of the US available for tree restoration. Once mature, these new forests could store 205 billion tonnes of carbon: about two thirds of the 300 billion tonnes of carbon that has been released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity since the Industrial Revolution.

According to Prof. Thomas Crowther, co-author of the study and founder of the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich: “We all knew that restoring forests could play a part in tackling climate change, but we didn’t really know how big the impact would be. Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today. But we must act quickly, as new forests will take decades to mature and achieve their full potential as a source of natural carbon storage.”

The study also shows which parts of the world are most suited to forest restoration. The greatest potential can be found in just six countries: Russia (151 million hectares); the US (103 million hectares); Canada (78.4 million hectares); Australia (58 million hectares); Brazil (49.7 million hectares); and China (40.2 million hectares).

Many current climate models are wrong in expecting climate change to increase global tree cover, the study warns. It finds that there is likely to be an increase in the area of northern boreal forests in regions such as Siberia, but tree cover there averages only 30 to 40 percent. These gains would be outweighed by the losses suffered in dense tropical forests, which typically have 90 to 100 percent tree cover.

A tool on the Crowther Lab website< enables users to look at any point on the globe, and find out how many trees could grow there and how much carbon they would store. It also offers lists of forest restoration organisations. The Crowther Lab will also be present at this year’s Scientifica to show the new tool to visitors.

The Crowther Lab uses nature as a solution to:

1) better allocate resources – identifying those regions which, if restored appropriately, could have the biggest climate impact;

2) set realistic goals – with measurable targets to maximise the impact of restoration projects;

3) monitor progress – to evaluate whether targets are being achieved over time, and take corrective action if necessary.

Source: https://ethz.ch/

How To Make Fuel From Tree Waste

Might tree roots, twigs and branches one day be used to power cars? That’s what a Swedish researcher is hoping after developing a pulp byproduct that – on a modest scale – does just that.

Chemical engineering scientist Christian Hulteberg, from Lund University, has used the black liquor residue from pulp and paper manufacturing to create a polymer called lignin.

After purification and filtration, that is then turned into a gasoline mixture.

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We’re actually using the stuff of the wood that they don’t use when they make paper and pulp… It adds value to low-value components of the tree,” he told Reuters.

In environmental terms, he says that gives it an advantage over other biofuels such as ethanol. “A lot of the controversy with ethanol production has been the use of feedstock that you can actually eat,” he said.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/