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World’s tallest wooden tower to be built in Australia

<i>Courtesy Grange Development</i><br/>Authorities in Perth green-lit plans for a 191.2-meter-tall (627-foot) “hybrid” tower constructed using mass timber.
Courtesy Grange Development
Authorities in Perth green-lit plans for a 191.2-meter-tall (627-foot) “hybrid” tower constructed using mass timber.

By Tara Subramaniam, CNN

(CNN) — Western Australia may soon be home to the world’s tallest wooden building, after authorities in Perth green-lit plans for a 191.2-meter-tall (627-foot) “hybrid” tower constructed using mass timber.

On Thursday, Perth’s Metro Inner-South Joint Development Assessment Panel (JDAP) approved Grange Development’s proposal for the skyscraper, currently dubbed the C6 building, which would stand nearly twice as high as the current record holder.

The developers say 42% of the proposed tower will be constructed from timber, with the columns and core made of reinforced concrete.

If completed, the high-rise will surpass the world’s tallest timber-concrete hybrid building, the Ascent tower in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which stands at 25 stories or 86 meters (284 feet), according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. The proposed structure, located on Charles Street in South Perth, will also be taller than the forthcoming hybrid timber Atlassian Headquarters in Sydney, which is poised to claim the record from Ascent but is yet to be completed.

Like Atlassian, the proposed C6 tower will combine laminated timber beams with a steel exoskeleton to support the the structure.

According to Grange Development, the 50-story tower will contain more than 200 apartments and will be Western Australia’s first carbon-negative residential building.

“The intent of C6 has always been, at its core, a straightforward proposition,” Grange Development’s director, James Dibble, said in a press release. “Our aspiration with C6 is to shift the focus towards a more climate-conscious approach.”

The tower will use 7,400 cubic meters (over 260,000 cubic feet) of timber harvested from 600 trees, according to Grange.

“We can’t grow concrete,” Dibble said in a proposal submitted to Perth authorities, calling the plan “a new open sourced blueprint that utilizes hybrid construction methodology to offset the carbon within our built environment, which is the single biggest contributor to climate change.”

“This is our opportunity to state that we genuinely care about both the housing crisis before us and the climate crisis we are doing very little about as an industry,” he added.

Beyond using timber, Grange’s plan also includes green features such as a rooftop garden, an urban farm and resident access to 80 new fully-electric Tesla Model 3s.

Philip Oldfield, an associate architecture professor and head of the University of New South Wales’ School of Built Environment, told CNN he thinks, environmentally, the project has “strong credentials”.

“Typically we build tall buildings out of steel and concrete. Cement is responsible for 8% of all CO2 emissions. So by replacing concrete and steel with a bio material such as timber, it is going to reduce the environmental impact of the building quite significantly,” Oldfield said over the phone.

However, he expressed skepticism about some of the developer’s other claims.

“I’m a little more cynical about the idea that it’s carbon-negative,” Oldfield said. “The only way it would be carbon negative is if the building stored more carbon in the timber than was released (by) the other materials. That may be possible but that’s always going to be temporary.”

Nevertheless, Oldfield is optimistic about the growing use of timber in construction.

“Overall I think it’s a great move forward,” he said. “We do need to be building far more of our buildings out of timber.”

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Call to Earth is a CNN editorial series committed to reporting on the environmental challenges facing our planet, together with the solutions. Rolex’s Perpetual Planet initiative has partnered with CNN to drive awareness and education around key sustainability issues and to inspire positive action.

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