I recently attended a seminar about tall wood buildings in the United States, presented by Hans-Erik Blomgren. Although the main point of the seminar was to present about the topic of glulam and cross laminated timber, I got distracted by one particular slide he presented in the beginning. I will post the images below:
Blomgren talked about all of the advancements in technology and the fast pace at which humans are evolving. He then posed a question, “why hasn’t construction of our residential homes changed at all?” The picture on the left is of a balloon frame construction back in 1877. The picture to the right is the same thing just taken more recently. Aside from a few minor changes, you can see that residential home construction hasn’t changed much at all. Change isn’t always necessary. If something works, why bother changing it? It is proof that even if something seems archaic, if it still functions the same way we want it to then it doesn’t really need to be put on the top of the priority list of “it needs to be upgraded.” However, with sustainable design and organizations like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) popping up and creating standards to decrease the footprint a building leaves, we might want to start thinking of ways to improve upon this method of construction.
I obviously do not have an answer to this… Ballroom frame construction is cheaper than most methods of construction and extremely effective at it in terms of cost and time. We have a system that has been in use for over a century now. It’s going to be tough figuring out a new method of construction and popping up homes like cookies using a cookie cutter.
The main point of this seminar was to learn about skyscrapers built using wooden material, which never has happened before because of the fact that wood is combustible. With the evolution in technology, scientists and researchers have figured out a way to create a product that is just as strong, if not stronger, cheaper, and leaves a smaller environmental impact. Creating wooden skyscrapers is no longer just an idea. It has become a possibility and a large step towards the future. It was incredible to listen to and excited me because I will potentially be the few people that get to start considering wood as a viable construction material.
Despite all of this incredible information, I was distracted with the lack of evolution in residential projects… I’m starting to wonder if it will ever change in the near future. It just seems too efficient to even bother with at the moment.