Breaking the glass ceiling
It may well be the worst name ever devised for a building system, but FFTT, the open design concept being championed by high-profile Canadian architect Michael Green, is taking timber to new heights.
I first met the permanently disheveled but unquestionably savvy Green at a WoodSolutions seminar in Australia a couple of years ago, where he made passing reference to ‘Find the Forests Through the Trees’ building design.
Yes, I was one of the first people down under to be confronted with that dreadfully ugly FFTT acronym. But as with the ‘Big Arse’ ceiling fan – once heard, never forgotten.
The former mountaineering instructor abhors ‘glass ceilings’ – particularly when they restrict the use of timber in construction. “On an energy basis alone, wood is clearly the best of the three major structural system options … But the challenge is in getting people to take up our philosophy that wood should fundamentally be the first choice,” he told timber+DESIGN at the time.
Many moons later, Green is back in the news (Was he ever out of it.) with the release in March of a Canadian Wood Council report validating the use of mass timber products as viable for the construction of tall buildings.
And guess what – FFTT is now right up there alongside more widely known multi-storey timber technologies such as Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL).
The report highlights the ability of wood products to offer flexible tower construction, meet building codes and be price competitive with other building material options.
FFTT uses mass timber panels as a primary structural material to achieve building heights of up to 30 stories and open plans that accommodate diverse architectural forms. It is based on a ‘strong column, weak beam’ balloon-frame approach, using large format panels as vertical structure, lateral shear walls and floor slabs. The ‘weak beam’ component is made of steel beams bolted to the mass timber panels to provide ductility in the system. The system differs from pure CLT in that it also uses LSL and LVL.
The report, co-authored by Green, says the FFTT structural system in wood that is the first significant challenger to concrete and steel structures since their inception in tall building design more than a century ago.
The principal of Michael Green Architecture is preoccupied with safe, cost-effective and carbon neutral solutions to the world’s building challenges, and he champions mass timber solutions for all. His FFTT approach is intended to create efficiently built, mid-and high-rise buildings up to 30 storeys.
Meanwhile, from New Zealand there is news his month of more multi-storey buildings to be built using the new ‘seismically safer’ LVL-based EXPAN system (see separate story this issue.)
The Case for Tall Wood Buildings report can be found at http://www.wecbc.ca/demonstration_projects/portfolio/26.php.
Tony Neilson – editor