Michael Green,moderniser of wood construction   

Canadian architect Michael Green speaks for wood construction and the opportunities it offers for resolving housing shortages around the world. He is known as an innovative and open-minded moderniser of wood construction. In his opinion, the next major development needs are prefabrication in industrial wood construction, standardisation and high-rise construction.

 

“We are still relying too much on traditional construction methods in wood construction, simply because companies have not invested in prefabrication. Only through increased prefabrication can we make investors interested in wood construction in a new way.”

According to Green, industrial prefabrication makes production scalable and enables the further development of the entire wood construction system. “We need industrial standards for wood construction to ensure that each component and detail is addressed already in the planning stage. We cannot challenge the concrete and steel industries globally until wood construction has standardised products and systems everywhere. This must be implemented over the next few years.

“We need high-rise wood construction, because it drives innovation. Each high-rise construction project further develops wood construction technology and promotes the design of details and construction efficiency in buildings of all sizes.”

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Wood construction does not allow for mistakes

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Green points out that high-rise wood construction involves difficult technical issues related to structures and details that need to be resolved. “In the future, the main market for wood construction will be buildings with up to 16–18 storeys. We must ensure their safety and functionality. When we prove that a wooden high-rise is safe, we are also proving that lower wooden buildings are safe.

“Even though trust in wood construction is increasing, we must be very careful in terms of mistakes. New types of buildings attract a great deal of media attention, especially if mistakes are found. Any major mistake or failure will affect the perception of the safety of wood construction globally,” says Green.

Changing the regulations

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Political support is needed for the further development of wood construction

In Canada, the regulations concerning wood construction will be amended by 2020 to allow for wooden apartment buildings with up to 12 storeys. “Even though the regulations have not been changed yet, we have already built wooden high-rises under special permission. The technology, materials and expertise are already there.

“With the market for cost-effective construction growing, I think that industrial prefabrication and mass production based on industrial prefabrication will cause prices to decrease quite rapidly. The same applies to the single-family housing market, where mass production of wooden elements can be combined with a customer-focused approach.”

According to Green, political support for wood construction continues to be important. “Political support is necessary in all countries, as new materials require research and development and must also be taken into account in regulations and training. When the wood construction sector develops further and its operating environment becomes more stable, it will not need the same kind of political support as in its early stages.

“Politicians are currently interested in wood construction because of its positive climate effects. The focus has shifted from favourable employment and local economic effects to ecological factors and climate change all around the world, except for the United States, where climate change is not taken seriously.”

According to Green, private construction investors have also taken an interest in wood construction in Canada. “These investors are interested in premium-quality buildings. With large companies knowing the level of housing required by their tenants, there is a market for beautifully designed, high-quality wooden buildings in North America.

“In terms of wood construction technologies and competitive bidding processes, North America is clearly lagging behind Europe. Canadians are exporting wood construction designs and materials. I wish we could be offered European wood construction solutions in return. This would be good in terms of healthy competition and functional markets.”

Michael Green

​Michael Green founded his architecture firm MGA and his not for profit school DBR | Design Build Research to focus on progressive architecture, research, education and innovation. From offices in Vancouver and Portland, he and his team of 25 designers work on international projects that are diverse in their scale, building type and location.

Michael is vested in helping build healthier communities through innovative architecture, interiors, landscape, and urban design. Michael is particularly known for his research, leadership and advocacy in promoting the use of wood in the built environment with extensive international talks on the subject, including 3 TED events culminating in his 2013 TED talk which has been viewed over a million times.

Metsä Wood has been working together with Michal Green to increase the awareness of using wood in construction. In 2015 Michael Green’s office MGA designs a wooden version of Empire State Building for Metsä Wood’s Plan B campaign. In 2016 Metsä Wood organized an architect’s competition City Above the City and Michael Green was one of the jury members.

Text: Markku Laukkanen

   

Open Source Wood

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Metsä Wood’s Open Source Wood is a collaboration platform for architects and engineers to share their innovations in modular wood construction. The best innovations using Kerto LVLreceive awards from Open Source Wood’s panel of experts. The aim of the initiative is to facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration in modular wood construction. To browse the uploaded designs and to share your own ideas, visit Opensourcewood.com.

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