Last month, the International Code Council concluded that some wooden buildings could be built as high as 18 stories, more than twice the current permissible height for wooden structures. C.J. Hughes of The New York Times reports this as a win for a growing number of builders and developers who aim to make use of timber in high-rise projects in place of concrete or steel.

As of January 1st, new timber-frame highrises are underway or complete in Milwaukee, Portland, Atlanta, and Minneapolis, among others. Proponents of timber-frame high-rise construction note its environmental friendliness and visual appeal for consumers, as well as relative earthquake resistance compared to other framing materials. However, concerns exist about wood’s strength, flame resistance, and high cost.

Unlike the production of concrete and steel, which generates huge amounts of carbon dioxide, the creation of lumber is a relatively low-pollution process, [according to Tim Gokhman, director of New Land Enterprises, a developer with two wood-frame projects in Milwaukee.]

Trees are also an easily renewable resource, achieving nearly their full size in a decade, according to Jason Korb, an architect and a designer of both New Land projects. He added that the United States had some catching up to do, as wooden towers exist or are underway in Australia, Austria, Canada and Norway, among other places.

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